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Negotiated punishment for Deshaun Watson is possible, but currently not likely

Mike Florio shares why paid leave would be the NFL's best move for Deshaun Watson, and he and Charean Williams discuss how the league treats punishes players versus owners.

The NFL has yet to decide what to do about Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson. One possibility will be to work directly with Watson and the NFL Players Association to reach a negotiated resolution.

As a source with knowledge of the situation recently told PFT, “There’s a way out for everybody.”

There is, but it won’t be easy. To accept a punishment, Watson must be willing to admit that he did something he shouldn’t have done. To date, he’s been unwilling to do that.

Absent a settlement between the NFL, the NFLPA, and Watson, the league will have to make some decisions. First, paid leave or unpaid suspension? Second, if unpaid suspension, how long?

The union expects the league to suggest an unprecedented suspension, with the understanding that it will be reduced on appeal. But the appeal process could be problematic, for everyone.

As explained on Thursday, the NFLPA will defend Watson in part by pointing to three owners who weren’t punished enough or at all. That could get delicate for the league, and for those owners. But there’s risk for Watson, too. The process could result in the development of evidence that could be used against Watson in the pending civil cases. Likewise, evidence generated by the in-house arbitration process could give new life to a potential prosecution.

So it makes sense for everyone to work something out. Complicating matters continues to be the possibility that more lawsuits will be filed, more negative developments will unfold, and the outcome will seem to be insufficient.