NFL Rumors: Deshaun Watson Restructures Contract, Browns Open Nearly $36M in Cap

Adam WellsMarch 13, 2023

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - JANUARY 08: Deshaun Watson #4 of the Cleveland Browns looks the throw the ball during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium on January 08, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns have opened up salary-cap space by restructuring quarterback Deshaun Watson's contract.

The Browns created $36 million in cap space by adjusting their quarterback's deal, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

The Browns were $13.5 million over the cap prior to this move. General manager Andrew Berry told reporters during the NFL Scouting Combine restructuring Watson's contract was "on the table" to help their books for the 2023 season.

Mary Kay Cabot @MaryKayCabot

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Browns?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Browns</a> Andrew Berry says restructuring Deshaun Watson's contract is on the table <a href="https://t.co/IBMSEC7rSc">pic.twitter.com/IBMSEC7rSc</a>

SharpFootball.com noted that Watson's $54.993 million cap hit in 2023 would have been the largest in NFL history and would have accounted for 21.7 percent of the Browns' entire cap.

The five-year, $230 million contract Watson signed with the Browns in March 2022 gave the team some flexibility to restructure it in future years. He was owed a $46 million base salary this season, but converting a portion of that to a signing bonus will give Cleveland the ability to sign players with free agency unofficially set to begin on Monday.

Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com listed Javon Hargrave, Jessie Bates III, Yannick Ngakoue and Dre'Mont Jones as potential targets for the Browns.

Watson sat out the first 11 games of the 2022 season while serving a suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. The discipline stemmed from the league's investigation into more than two dozen civil lawsuits filed against him for alleged sexual assault and sexual misconduct during massage appointments.

In six games with the Browns, Watson threw for 1,102 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. It was his first time playing since the 2020 season with the Houston Texans.

The Browns finished last in the AFC North with a 7-10 record in 2022.