The Cleveland Browns gave up quite a lot in acquiring quarterback Deshaun Watson, and that’s just speaking in terms of draft, cap, and financial resources. And they knew that they would not be getting a great deal from him in his first season here, as his serving a suspension was inevitable.
Now with that in his rearview in terms of on-field repercussions, both he and the Browns endeavor to move forward in building the offense that they envisioned when first conceiving this union. That starts with getting everybody on the same page.
Fortunately for head coach Kevin Stefanski, he believes that is already well underway. Speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine last week, he said that he and his quarterback are “seeing the game very similarly”, via Myles Simmons of Pro Football Talk.
One would hope so, considering the fact that they still owe him another $184,000,000 over the next four years. He will earn $46 million each season over the remaining length of his current contract, salary that is fully guaranteed.
“I think he’s very excited about what we’re going to be doing offensively, what we’ll be doing as a team, and I think he’s excited to go play some football in the spring and summer”, Stefanski added regarding Watson. He said that they “talk about everything under the sun” with respect to their working relationship, down to how practices are structured.
None of this should come as a surprise given the price that they were willing to give up in order to acquire him. They traded the Houston Texans three first-round draft picks, among other odds and ends, in order to get him a year ago, and even then only after they made the unprecedented offer of a fully-guaranteed five-year deal for him. Watson somehow held all the cards.
I think almost anybody reading this will be familiar with the background, but Watson was accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of massage therapists spanning roughly a year and a half, during which time he hired the women independently for private sessions. Some were reported to have taken place at a suite the Texans furnished him. He was even provided a non-disclosure agreement to get the women to sign.
While he eventually reached legal settlements in nearly all cases, he faced dozens of civil lawsuits stemming from these accusations. Numerous criminal lawsuits were filed, but prosecutors elected not to pursue charges, citing the difficulty of reaching a guilty verdict.
The NFL’s own investigation found the women’s accounts substantially credible enough to move forward with what they were initially hoping would be a year-long suspension, which was reduced to 11 games.
It was a convenient figure, as it would allow Watson to accrue a season and not have the contract toll, leaving the Browns still with a five-year contract on their hands. Instead, he remains under contract for only four, having played six games in 2022 at the end of the season following the completion of his suspension, during which he performed in largely pedestrian fashion.