Appeals officer Peter Harvey hasn’t completed the (by rule) “expedited” review two weeks after the filing of the league’s appeal of the original six-game suspension for one reason. He’s waiting until the league and the union reach impasse in their ongoing settlement talks.
The message on Monday was that a settlement remained viable. At this point, every minute that Harvey doesn’t issue a ruling means that a settlement can still happen. And because the NFL, as a practical matter, controls Harvey, he’ll wait until the NFL tells him that settlement talks have hit a brick wall.
That’s the bottom line. No ruling until no settlement.
So where could a settlement land? Watson reportedly is willing to accept eight games. The league surely wants at least 12 games. The obvious middle ground is 10 games, plus a fine that converts all or part of 2021 into an unpaid suspension by taking up to the full $10 million in salary that he received last year.
As previously mentioned, both sides need to be committed to selling to the public that last year was, as a practical matter, a paid suspension, since he didn’t play in 2021 due to the off-field issue. And that’s 100 percent accurate. But for the legal entanglement, he would have been traded to the Dolphins at some point between the middle of March and Labor Day weekend.
Now, a different deal is under the microscope. Will the NFL and the NFLPA strike a deal that avoids a ruling from Harvey and, in turn, a fight in federal court? The possibility of a settlement remains until Harvey rules.
Actually, a settlement can happen even after Harvey issues a ruling. The league surely would prefer, however, to not bang the internal gavel at something like a one-year suspension and then promptly walk it back to 10 or 12 after the union sues. The time to settle is now, before Harvey rules. And Harvey won’t rule unless and until there’s a genuine impasse.