The Cleveland Browns haven’t had much success in the past 20 years or so as a franchise. One year after making their first playoff appearance in 18 seasons and winning a playoff game with Baker Mayfield under center, the Browns traded for Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson.
That move marked the end of Mayfield’s tenure on the shores of Lake Erie after the 2018 No.1 overall pick fell out of favor with the franchise.
The Watson scenario comes with its own set of barriers, as the former Clemson Tigers star is battling legal issues stemming from sexual misconduct allegations which caused him to miss the entire 2021 season. Even with those legal problems, his talent and upside was enough for the Browns to trade multiple first-round picks, one third-rounder and two fourth-rounders.
OFFICIAL: We have acquired 3-time Pro Bowl QB Deshaun Watson in a trade with the Texans
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) March 20, 2022
On a recent episode of “First Things First,” FS1 personality Marcellus Wiley called the acquisition of Watson the biggest move in the NFL offseason.
“Last time we checked on Deshaun Watson on a football field he had a 70 percent completion percentage and 112 passer rating.” Wiley said.
The former NFL defensive lineman wasn’t done.
“So now we’re talking about the best player going to the Cleveland Browns. Denver Broncos have a strong roster … But you know who has a great roster and just needed one part, one piece, one thing?
“You look at the Cleveland Browns last year, and they made the playoffs last year, their quarterback, he won six games and now they get Deshaun Watson, you know how that energizes you?
“When you’re saying the only thing holding us back is that position and then they fill that position with someone as talented, as great as Deshaun Watson, I think this was a no-brainer.”
The Browns believed so much in Watson they signed him to a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed extension. It is the largest fully guaranteed deal in league history, and is a whopping $80 million more than the deal Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen signed last August.
Is Watson The Missing Piece To A Talented Browns Offense?
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has had plenty of success as a play-caller, from his time in Minnesota with Kirk Cousins to his first season in Cleveland with Mayfield. But in each situation he had to dummy down his scheme to fit the limited skillset of both quarterbacks.
He’ll be able to expand his offensive possibilities with Watson because he can do so many things that the other two can’t do. Now the entire playbook opens up with Watson, who can make every throw and use his legs to play off-schedule and break defenses down when things don’t go as planned.
Running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, who are arguably the league’s best duo, will have even bigger running lanes, as defenses won’t be able to sell out to stop the run, with Watson’s passing ability.
Wide receiver Amari Cooper, who was acquired via trade from the Cowboys, is the bell cow of the pass-catchers and the second-best target Watson has thrown to in his career after future Hall of Famer DeAndre Hopkins.
Donovan Peoples-Jones has been steadily getting better. His 34 receptions for 597 yards and three touchdowns as the third receiver showed he has promise. 2022 third-round pick David Bell out of Purdue has a Jarvis Landry skill set with much more speed and quickness. Tight end David Njoku looks content. After a couple seasons of trying to get traded, he’s headed toward a long-term deal.
Watson Will Be Behind A Great Offensive Line
The Texans never invested in their offensive line like they should’ve to protect Watson. Yet they still won two division titles, mostly because of his greatness. Now he’ll be protected and kept upright behind a top-five line in run block win rate and top-10 pass block win rate. All the ingredients are there for the Browns to be a contender, including a stout defense, but the legal process must play out before Watson takes the field.