In an expected move, the Cleveland Browns have restructured QB Deshaun Watson’s contract, clearing cap space as they and the rest of the league get ready for the first day of the legal tampering period. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the move will clear almost $36 million in cap space.
It appears (though not confirmed) the Browns added a void, “dummy” year to Watson’s deal to help create the massive amount of space. Nearly one year ago, Cleveland made a historic trade for Watson, sending three first-round picks to the Houston Texans for Watson while giving him a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million deal. That deal came despite serious allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Watson, which resulted in an 11-game suspension to begin the 2022 season.
Watson started the final six games of last season and looked rusty, having not played football since 2020. He finished the year with seven touchdowns to five interceptions, completing under 60% of his passes while being sacked 20 times. He lost his lone start against the Pittsburgh Steelers, throwing a pair of touchdowns and interceptions in the Week 18 regular season finale, a 28-14 Pittsburgh win. Watson was sacked seven times that game.
The Browns are expected to look toward making serious upgrades to their defense this offseason. That could center around improving their defensive line with an option like Dre’mont Jones, a Cleveland native, or safeties Jessie Bates or Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.
Cleveland finished 7-10 and in last place in the AFC North in 2022. With Watson, the pressure will be on to win in 2023 in a highly competitive AFC North. Watson will have a full offseason with the team and, of course, won’t start the year on the suspended list.
The legal tampering period begins today at 12 PM/EST with the official start to the new league year kicking off Wednesday at 12 PM/EST.