The Cleveland Browns believed they had a Super Bowl contending roster coming into the 2021-22 season. This following a 2020-21 which saw them go 11-5, earn a wildcard playoff spot (first since 2002), and win a playoff game. But a myriad of things costs the Browns their season, and they failed to make a return trip to the postseason.
The biggest flaw on the roster was at quarterback, with former No. 1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield showing regression. While injuries to his throwing shoulder played a role, it just seemed that he’d peaked in the eyes of the Browns brass.
So when the opportunity to trade for Houston Texans star Deshaun Watson came, the Browns pounced despite his legal issues. The team traded a haul of draft capital (three first-rounders, one third-rounder and two fourth-rounders) for the former Clemson star, and then they signed him to the largest fully guaranteed contract in NFL history (five years, $230 million), which is an an average annual value of $46 million per season.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith says the Browns just wanted to get better, and he sees nothing wrong with it, despite the ongoing investigation.
“They can’t offer him anything if the NFL says no one can offer him anything. The Cleveland Browns are concerned about the other 31 teams. That’s what their concern is.
“If it’s the NFL’s job to say none of you get to offer him and that we’re making this decision, the NFL won’t do it. All of these people are pointing the finger at the Cleveland Browns. If it wasn’t them it was going to be another team.
“Their attitude is, hell, at the end of the day, you’re going to be killing us because we lost a football game. Our job is to be better than the other 31 teams in the NFL. If the NFL wants to allow us to sign Deshaun Watson then guess what? One of us is going to do it.”
So basically Smith is alluding to the Browns making the move so they won’t have to play against the talented signal caller. Also because he’s an upgrade over Mayfield.
Browns Made A Football Decision
While the 66 women that he allegedly got massages from seem to be a red flag for some people regarding his moral standing, players of Watson’s caliber rarely become available in their prime, and especially not at the game’s most important position.
A team with Super Bowl aspirations and a talent-laden roster, in adding Watson the Browns get one of the game’s premier players in the prime of his career. And, as SAS stated, if not them, then another team would’ve made the move. In a league that could mean Not For Long, winning cures all, and adding a top-tier signal caller only enhances those chances. It’s a decision they believe will pay huge dividends on the shores of Lake Erie.
When Will Watson Be Available To Play
Given the history of the league when dealing with investigations of these sorts (Watson accused of sexual assault and misconduct by 24 different women), the expectancy is he’ll be suspended by the league for at least six to eight games. So that means journeymen Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs will be tasked with holding down the fort until Watson can play.
Deshaun Watson on Instagram, reacting to today’s New York Times story: pic.twitter.com/TkSKi2PaiC
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) June 7, 2022
The team still currently has Mayfield on the roster, as no team is willing to trade for him and pay his $19 million fifth-year option. The belief is the relationship can’t be salvaged enough for Mayfield to fill the role until Watson is cleared. He’s still butthurt about Watson taking his spot, so Baker would be unwilling to do anything that would jeopardize his health or trade value.
That will put the onus on the team’s defense, led by edge rushers Myles Garett and JaDeveon Clowney and cornerback Denzel Ward, whose recent new contract made him the second-highest paid defensive back in the league.
Cleveland also has one of the most potent ground games in the NFL with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt toting the mail. The two power backs have combined to rush for over 3,500 yards and 31 rushing touchdowns on a 5.0 yards per carry average over the past two seasons. When Deshaun Watson is ready to handle his business on the field, Browns fans will welcome him with open arms, and who can really blame them.