A Deshaun Watson trade is now closer than ever after Watson chose the team he wants to join this offseason and it is the Cleveland Browns.
The astonishing news, reported by Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network on Friday, comes a little over 24 hours after Watson told the Browns that he WOULD NOT be joining them.
At that stage it appeared the race was down to a race between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons with Carolina also ruled out. But then on Friday came the stunning U-turn, with Watson saying Cleveland is indeed the team for him.
Deshaun Watson Cleveland contract
It is now expected Watson will sign a fully-guaranteed five-year, $230million deal to join the Browns after Cleveland agreed trade compensation with Houston.
The package is a huge one, and it includes:
- 3 first-round draft picks
- 1 third-round draft pick in 2023
- 1 fourth-round draft pick in 2024
- A swap of fifth-round draft picks in 2024
The Watson trade talks have hotted up massively in the last week after a grand jury decided not to indict the former Clemson standout on allegations of sexual misconduct.
Watson’s career in Texas came to a grinding halt in 2021 with the revelations about his private life, which resulted in a criminal investigation and a total of 22 civil lawsuits relating to alleged sexual misconduct.
Watson has developed into one of the finest quarterbacks in pro football since being selected by the Texans in the first round of the 2017 Draft. He led the team to AFC South titles in 2018 and 2019 and then led the NFL in passing yardage in 2020.
Watson did not play in 2021 after his relationship with the Texans soured and news emerged of those sexual misconduct allegations.
Last Friday that grand jury decision came down that Watson will face no criminal charges, and that paved the way for trade talks to begin in earnest.
Deshaun Watson Next Team Odds
Multiple teams explored a deal for Watson ahead of the 2021 trade deadline – notably the Miami Dolphins, who offered three first-round picks and more for Deshaun. That despite having Tua already in the house.
Initially there were several QB-needy teams (as many as 10 per reports) who were reportedly ready with offers to trigger. They are reportedly not worried about the civil lawsuits.
Other teams to watch who have not as yet been involved in the race are the Seattle Seahawks – with all that draft capital to reinvest from trading Russell Wilson to Denver – and the Indianpolis Colts, fresh off trading Carson Wentz to Washington. There have also been some rumors involving the San Francisco 49ers but nothing on the record there yet…
It is maybe a little surprising the Saints are in the hunt given their cap situation, but recent moves have them close to the magic $208.2million number as the new league year approaches on March 16. Per Rapoport, the Saints can get Watson’s current salary under the cap and still do everything they need to.
Teams who are obviously no longer in the hunt are Denver (which traded for Wilson) and Washington after its trade for Carson Wentz. Add Pittsburgh to that list too – the Steelers have signed former Bears starter Mitch Trubisky to a two-year deal.
The answer is almost certainly. Even before all those sexual misconduct allegations came to light, Watson had major issues with the Houston front office. No wonder then that he did not play at all for the team in 2021.
The price for Watson likely starts at three first-round picks, and likely goes higher than that. It could also include veteran players who may be makeweights in any blockbusting transaction.
Watson is in the early stages of a four-year deal which expires after the 2025 season and is worth a total of $156million. The contract gives Watson a base salary of $35million for 2022 and a salary cap hit of $40million.