Watson to Browns, signs for $230M guaranteed

Field Level Media

March 19, 2022 at 12:23 am.

Deshaun Watson is heading to the Cleveland Browns.

The Houston Texans agreed to trade Watson and a 2024 fifth-round draft pick to Cleveland on Friday in exchange for first-round selections in each of the next three drafts, a 2023 third-rounder and a 2024 fourth-rounder.

The deal is final pending physical exams and approval of the league office.

Watson posted to his Instagram page a mock-up photo of him in a Browns uniform with “Dawg Pound” scripted on the bottom just as NFL Network and ESPN reported he would sign a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract as part of a trade. The contract would set a record for the most guaranteed money given to an NFL player in the lifetime of a single contract, which was previously $150 million.

The trade concludes a whirlwind week in which several NFL teams reportedly lined up to woo Watson after a grand jury’s decision in Harris County, Texas, to decline to indict him on nine criminal complaints of sexual assault. Watson remains the subject of civil lawsuits.

Watson, who did not play last season after demanding a trade, coveted a fresh start. He was inactive every week, with the potential for criminal charges hanging over his head as more than 20 women accused him of sexual misconduct.

The NFL said in a statement on Friday that “any transaction would have no effect on the NFL’s ongoing and comprehensive investigation of the serious allegations against Deshaun Watson. Nor would it affect his status under the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Personal Conduct Policy. If the league investigation determines that Watson violated the Personal Conduct Policy, discipline may be imposed pursuant to the policy and the CBA.”

A conviction is not required for players to be suspended for conduct violations with precedent in noteworthy cases including the six-game ban Ben Roethlisberger received in 2010, later reduced to four.

Texans general manager Nick Caserio said in a statement Friday evening that he felt trading Watson was the right move for the organization. Owner Cal McNair also offered his support of Caserio.

“I’m extremely proud of the way Nick Caserio navigated us through this challenging situation,” McNair said in a statement. “He remained patient before ultimately making the decision that is best for us in both the short and long term. We’re confident in our plan to build a championship program that can sustain success and our entire organization is excited to move forward together.”

The news comes one day after quarterback Baker Mayfield had asked the Browns for a trade. The Browns’ public courtship of Watson led Mayfield to post a thank-you — and presumptive goodbye — note to fans Tuesday on social media.

Rumors earlier in the week said Watson had ruled Cleveland out and narrowed his list of desired destinations to the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons, but Watson changed his mind. He had complete control over his destination because he had to waive his full no-trade clause to facilitate the move.

Watson passed for a career-high 4,823 yards with 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2020 after signing a landmark contract extension with the Texans worth $156 million over four years.

Mayfield had 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions with 3,563 yards in 2020, and totaled 17 touchdowns with 13 interceptions and 3,010 yards in 2021.

He drew plenty of criticism for his play in 2021, including from the father of Odell Beckham Jr., who put out a video blasting Mayfield for failing to connect with the wide receiver on multiple occasions.

The Browns selected Mayfield, 26, with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. In 59 games as a starter, he’s 29-30, with a 61.6 completion percentage, 14,125 yards and 92 touchdowns to go with 56 interceptions.

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