The former federal judge assigned to preside over a hearing to determine whether Deshaun Watson violated the NFL's personal conduct policy issued her ruling this morning. In her ruling, Sue L. Robinson settled on a six-game suspension for Watson, who was sued for sexual misconduct by 25 massage therapists.
The NFLPA has already issued a statement saying that it will not appeal Robinson's ruling, which leaves the NFL with three days to decide if it wants to submit an appeal. Robinson did not rule that Watson should be fined, and the six-game suspension falls well below the mark that the league was reportedly seeking during the hearing. Various reports throughout the hearing indicated that the league was initially seeking a season-long suspension, and ESPN reports that in the final days leading up to Robinson's ruling the league was looking for a 12-game suspension and significant fine.
Because of the way Watson's contract with the Browns is structured, he would lose only $345,000 in game checks in a six-game suspension, while collecting the entirety of his $45 million signing bonus.
Should the NFL decide it wants to appeal the ruling, the case would then be sent to Roger Goodell, or a designee chosen by him, and a final decision would be made. If that were to happen, and Goodell or his designee overruled Robinson and issued a lengthier suspension, Watson's remaining option would be to sue the NFL.
A few hours before Robinson's ruling was issued, news broke that Watson had settled three more of the lawsuits filed against him. Twenty of the 25 lawsuits had been previously settled, and one withdrawn, which leaves Watson with one active suit against him.
How close this process is to a conclusion now largely depends on whether or not the NFL decides to appeal the ruling, but in any case the NFL's legal and administrative machinery is doing what it's designed to do: Receive 25 accusations of systematic sexual misconduct and process them into a measurable violation of an employment agreement, all in the service of getting everyone back to watching and playing football games as soon as possible.