The Cleveland Browns' decision to acquire Deshaun Watson and sign him to a guaranteed contract has been widely criticized, including among NFL agents.
"Disgusting. Complete, 100 percent franchise malpractice. Sends the wrong message," one NFL agent said, per Ben Standig of The Athletic.
Watson was accused of sexual assault or sexual misconduct by 25 women who filed civil lawsuits against him (though one lawsuit was later dropped for privacy reasons). All but one of the remaining lawsuits have been settled.
The Browns still traded for the quarterback before agreeing to a five-year, $230 million contract that's fully guaranteed.
The 26-year-old has been suspended for the first 11 games of 2022 after violating the league's personal-conduct policy. The contract was also backloaded, so the suspension takes away from his base salary of $1.035 million for this season compared to the $46 million base salary in the ensuing years of the deal.
"Desperate times call for desperate measures, and (signing Watson) is as desperate as anything I've ever seen in the history of professional sports in this country," the agent added.
The Browns were looking for an upgrade at quarterback after four years of up-and-down play from Baker Mayfield. Watson is certainly a difference-maker on the field, earning three Pro Bowl selections in four seasons.
The former Clemson star led the NFL with 4,823 passing yards when he last played in 2020.
It's enough for some agents to understand the move from the Browns' perspective.
"They'll take a really bad PR hit early on, and then he'll throw touchdowns and everybody will forget about it," a different agent told Standig.
Cleveland has reached the playoffs just once in the last 19 seasons, which makes finding the quarterback an even bigger priority. The AFC North remains difficult with the Cincinnati Bengals coming off a Super Bowl appearance and the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers perennial playoff contenders.
There is no denying Watson can help on the field, but there appears to be debate over whether it is worth the off-field concerns.