Deshaun Watson's Fully Guaranteed Browns Contract 'Reeks of Desperation,' Exec SaysApril 8, 2022
An unnamed NFL executive questioned why the Cleveland Browns gave quarterback Deshaun Watson a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract after acquiring him from the Houston Texans in a blockbuster trade last month.
The executive told Mike Sando of The Athletic on Friday that Watson, who faces 22 civil lawsuits from women accusing him of sexual assault and misconduct after he hired them for massage services, isn't a good fit for head coach Kevin Stefanski.
"What Deshaun does best is playmaking, off-schedule, throwing deep, all that, which does not strike me as the Stefanski system," the exec said. "It may all work out, but he is not the person to give that deal and that power to. You might do that with Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, and even then you wouldn't like it. I just don't understand. It just reeks of desperation."
Not only did the Browns guarantee the entire contract, the largest such commitment in NFL history, they also structured the deal with a $1 million base salary in 2022, which limits the potential financial impact if Watson is suspended by the league.
The 26-year-old Georgia native, who held a no-trade clause that gave him power to choose his next team, denied Cleveland's offer played a role in his decision.
"It had nothing to do with the contract. I didn't know about the contract until I told my agent that I wanted to come and be a Cleveland Brown," Watson told reporters at his introductory press conference.
Browns general manager Andrew Berry added the contract was built from a purely roster-building perspective.
"We certainly understand the optics of it," Berry said. "I think for us, after we got comfortable with Deshaun, the contract was really a football decision. The things that were important to us from a club perspective were to have Deshaun under contract for another year and to have it structured in a manner that would allow us maximum flexibility to execute the rest of our offseason plan."
The reality is it became clear Cleveland wanted to move on from Baker Mayfield as its starting quarterback before the 2022 season and Watson was the last high-end option available on the trade market.
In turn, the Browns' front office opted to move their chips all-in to acquire Watson despite the surrounding circumstances, including his uncertain availability for next season.
He's a massive upgrade when looking solely through a football lens. He recorded 122 total touchdowns (104 passing, 17 rushing and one receiving) across 54 appearances for the Texans. That's 2.26 TDs per game.
Mayfield has tallied 97 total scores in 60 games (1.62 per game).
In addition, finding a franchise quarterback is the single most important factor in building a championship team, well ahead of the head coach or any other position. So if the Watson-Stefanski partnership doesn't work, the Browns will search for a new coach.
So, while there are questions about how Cleveland reached the conclusion to give Watson a contract, let alone so much guaranteed money, it doesn't come as a surprise in the QB-dominated NFL.