The Cleveland Browns understood when they were trading for quarterback Deshaun Watson last year that they may more realistically be getting a four-year pact. A suspension even at that early time felt quite probable, which is largely the reason his contract was structured as it was.
Be that as it may, the concerns for the future are on the football field, and the reason they were willing to make so many concessions for his services is because he’s supposed to be a pretty damn good football player. He’s not played much in two years, but Chris Simms believes he’ll show in 2023 that he’s still the same player he was when he was making Pro Bowls.
He spoke to the team’s YouTube channel last week during the NFL Scouting Combine and was asked his thoughts about what Watson will look like moving forward. “I think Deshaun Watson is going to be right back near the top quarterbacks in football conversation this year”, he said.
A 2017 12-overall pick, Watson was on pace to break the NFL’s single-season rookie passing touchdown record before getting injured, throwing 19 touchdowns in just seven games. He made the Pro Bowl in each of the next three years. in 2020 alone, he threw for 4,823 yards and 33 touchdowns to just seven interceptions, averaging nearly nine yards per attempt.
Putting up those sorts of numbers, it’s not hard to see why an organization might be willing to suffer some public relations backlash for the sake of the product on the field—and thus the bottom line on the ledger, since it’s all ultimately about money.
Simms believes the Browns will get that player because nobody is looking over their shoulder anymore about what might happen. “It’s a blank canvas. They know what he’s capable of, and they’re going to see as it goes on here”, he said. “He’s just hitting his groove here. That’s where it’s going to get exciting because they’re going to be able to tinker with him”.
One suspects that the Browns and head coach Kevin Stefanski can potentially get more creative with him than they ever managed to with the Houston Texans. He’ll also be buoyed by a very strong running game led by arguably the best back in the league in Nick Chubb, which certainly will not hurt.
Watson played six games at the end of last season after completing an 11-game suspension. The Browns went 3-3 in those games, and he typically looked worse in the wins than the losses as he was beginning to find his footing after so long off the field.
The season finale happened to come against the Pittsburgh Steelers, against whom he completed 19 out of 29 pass attempts for 230 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. In all, he went 99-for-170 for 1,102 yards with seven touchdowns to five interceptions.