Deshaun Watson Traded to Cleveland

Browns QB Deshaun Watson
Browns QB Deshaun Watson
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Offseason - In what Adam Schefter correctly has called "a stunning change of events," Deshaun Watson has decided he wants to play for the Cleveland Browns and not his other suitors, the Atlanta Falcons or the New Orleans Saints. We had been told that the Browns were out of the running, but Watson has apparently changed his mind. The Browns will be sending Houston three first-round picks (2022-2024), a third-round pick (2023), and a fourth-round pick (2024) for Watson and a fifth-round pick (2024). Cleveland is also handing Watson a new contract, fully guaranteed for five years and $230 million.

There are two angles to this move, on the field and off the field. On the field, this move seems like a no-brainer. Watson was one of the best quarterbacks in the league when he last played in 2020, leading the league in both total passing yardage and yards per attempt. That Houston team went only 4-12 but Watson led the Texans to the playoffs in the two years before that. Watson ranked fifth in both passing DVOA and passing DYAR in 2020. He lost DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and got better. Watson had ranked 13th in passing DYAR in 2019 and 10th in 2018. Contrast that to Baker Mayfield, who ranked 25th, 16th, and 23rd in passing DYAR over the last three seasons despite playing in a friendly offensive scheme that was supposedly built around his strengths. Watson improves the Browns at the most important position in football, no question. The high cost of trading for him, not to mention that exhorbitant contract the Browns are giving him -- these are the costs of getting a top quarterback in the NFL. It's the one position where it makes sense to trade away multiple first-round picks to improve significantly.

There's now going to be a great race in the AFC North between the defending AFC champion Bengals, the new-look Browns, and the healthier Baltimore Ravens. Watson's decision to stay in the AFC just continues the dominance of the AFC over the NFC in this year's big offseason moves. And some team (Indianapolis?) is going to get a chance to try to rehabilitate Baker Mayfield and find the quarterback who looked really good in the second half of his rookie year.

But.

There's also the off the field angle. I'll tread lightly here. There are much better reporters than me who have devoted their last few months to following Deshaun Watson's legal issues; Jenny Vrentas, for one. Twenty-two women have accused Watson of sexual misconduct ranging from exposing himself to sexual assault. The fact that a grand jury in Texas could not find enough evidence to indict on any specific case does not make Watson innocent. Watson is still facing civil suits and the possibility of a suspension from the league. It's really hard to disbelieve 22 women all making similar accusations. Rooting for Deshaun Watson right now feels gross. I would have to imagine that a lot of Cleveland Browns fans have very mixed feelings about this deal. The Browns just improved significantly, but what's the moral cost? There are a lot of us in the analytics world who have been rooting for Cleveland as an analytics-forward franchise waving the flag for our movement. I don't think we'll be rooting for Cleveland any more.

 

Comments

138 comments, Last at 22 Mar 2022, 8:30pm

1 Fully guaranteed? Yeesh.

Also what's up with teams throwing in a pick with these QBs? Watson and a 5th. Russ and 4th. 

Surprised Baker wasn't included going back to his home state. I guess I would've been greedier if I was Houston but...

41 I guess

Seems kinda pointless. Just scrub the day 3 picks and it's the same more or less. Gotta be more thinking behind it than that though.

46 All signs are that Hou is…

All signs are that Hou is going to try to continue to develop Davis Mills, who I wasn't sure even belonged on an NFL roster through his first few games, but improved to finish with a season similar to Baker's statwise.

55 Not terrible

With the obvious caveat that I don't go out of my way to watch HOU, Mills looked pretty promising. If he pans out then the Texans somehow got out of a massive mess about as good as you could have hoped for

109 Playing Mills next year makes sense, though

Starting him is better than trying to land a stopgap who will win a few more meaningless games but then force them to give up more draft capital next year to get the quarterback they really want. With that in mind, they were smart not to take Mayfield as part of the package. In the unlikely event that Mills turns out to be the next Dak Prescott, that's an amazing outcome; if he tanks, they can land one of the best QBs next year. If he's good but not quite what they're looking for, they will likely be able to trade him to another team, and they will certainly have enough draft capital to move up. In the worst-case scenario, he's probably good enough to be a cost-controlled backup for them next year.

115 So you'd agree Trubisky is waste of money?

Also, he's not the next Dak. Dak was OROTY, PB  and even got an MVP vote in his first year lol I think he tops out at Matt Hassleback at best. But probably more like Kevin Kolb in end. Maybe a smaller but slightly more athletic Jacoby Brissett is the more moderate modern version actually. 

But sounds like a lot of win win win there but I wouldn't have signed Driskel and used 13 or something to pick a QB and Mills can remain the backup if he can't beat out the rookie. Now...like I said plan for Stroud/Young and their skillsets and not specifically Mills. Would hard to do that anyway. Baker (30th/37 graded QBs) would've been a fine stop gap with Mills (35th) as backup without being consistently middle of the road for purgatory. Sell some jerseys and see if Nico Collins is it because we cant forget Bakers rookie>>>>Mills and last year was almost a throw away playing injured (CLE really doesn't care).

121 Yeah, Trubisky doesn’t make sense

But I can’t recall the Steelers ever seriously throwing away a year. They’ve got so many problems on the OL and in their WR corps that maybe Trubisky won’t be able to get them past five wins.

As for Mills, I’m not saying he’ll turn into Prescott, but I can imagine the Texans thinking it could happen. Dallas had a much better supporting cast, and last year’s Texans seemed to spend the first half of the year resisting Mills. Regardless, a number of winning outcomes are on the table if they let him play. 

124 Because they're good

And Trubisky is what you fear in Baker, without the upside.

The Texans better check themselves if they believe that because Dak at his worst (2017) still graded out significantly higher (72.2 vs 58.5). Cast aint explaining that difference. But they've been dumb before obviously. IDK what KF is. 

2 Leaving aside the legal and…

Leaving aside the legal and off the field portions out of it, you close your eyes and do this deal every single time. Even this price is a bargain by comparison with the other deals given Watson's age and ability. 

This browns team has now even more eerily similar to its basketball tanking counterpart. Neither tank job set out to end up here with a blockbuster trade, but that's basically what happened. Harden never chooses Philly without Embiid and Watson never chooses Cleveland if not for Garrett and Ward and guys like Chubb. 

5 Every time, indeed

If they can recoup just a single second-round pick for Mayfield, they're effectively giving up their first-round pick this year and in 2024, plus swapping a first for a second next year, to land a great quarterback. Sure, they don't have him on his rookie contract, but they get someone they know is extremely good. They don't have to wait to find out.

9 Let's face it -- Watson…

Let's face it -- Watson never chooses Cleveland if Houston didn't detonate like a grocery cart full of nitroglycerine going down a gravel road.

And without the lawsuits, I'm not sure he chooses Cleveland even then.

131 Which raises the question…

Which raises the question... why in hell does Cleveland make this deal? Good chance they won't get him this year full. Good chance they won't keep him after this deal either if things work out great - this is Cleveland after all, and Watson stormed his way out of Houston. And by year 3 the money's so high you can't even kick more of it down the road!

I think there's a huge chance they've got like, one or two years on this deal that they'll be competitive. It feels almost exactly like the Green Bay Rodgers deal, except Watson isn't Aaron Rodgers.

133 the price

$250 mil, all guaranteed.

What's not to like???

If I was a Browns fan, I'd be excited (in a football only sense) and also very concerned about that guarantee.

And in a non-football sense, I'd have a tough time rooting for him.

135 It's not just the guarantee,…

In reply to by Bobman

It's not just the guarantee, it's just the flat-out size of the contract. The Browns are already under cap pressure for next year thanks to this, and it's not the Saints kind of cap pressure where it's because you've got the team already signed. They've only got 25 players under contract for next year and only have $8M in cap space.

130 Even this price is a bargain…

Even this price is a bargain by comparison with the other deals given Watson's age and ability. 

Um... no. Deshaun Watson is not Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes or Tom Brady. There's still huge risk involved with Watson - you're absolutely buying high at this point. His 2020 was great, sure. But Josh Allen's 2020 was better, and things fell back to earth pretty quickly. Likewise with Lamar Jackson.

I mean, if you want to be really negative (this is intentionally way over the top)...

2019: Watson 722 DYAR, 9.5% DVOA. Tannehill 773 DYAR, 28% DVOA.
2020: Watson 1234 DYAR, 20.2% DVOA. Tannehill 1046 DYAR, 19.6% DVOA.
2021: Watson N/A, Tannehill -19 DYAR, -11.7% DVOA.

And there is, of course, the story of one Jay Cutler, top 5 Denver QB, only to fall into the Pit of Despair of Chicago QB. I mean... we are talking about Cleveland here.

Giving a fully-guaranteed contract that large to a guy who is not a total slam-dunk and who you haven't even seen on the field for a year (and who essentially whined his way off of a team!) is a huge risk.

3 This has to be the wildest…

This has to be the wildest free agency of all time. I just can't remember so many insane trades going down. 

At a minimum, the following teams have traded away their first rounders this year. *Deep Breath*

Rams - For Stafford

49ers - For Lance

Seahawks - Jamal Adams

Bears - Justin Fields

Broncos - Wilson

Browns - Watson

Colts - For Wentz(uuuugh)

Raiders - Adams

That's insane. 

28 Also consider the crazy flow…

Also consider the crazy flow of top talent moving from the NFC to the AFC: Adams, Wilson, Mack, Chandler Jones, Scherff, Miller ... and that's before guys like Wagner, Gilmore, and Terron Armstead have signed. It could get worse. 

62 this has to be the wildest

@theslothook: this isn't as insane as it seems...

These teams have traded away their first round picks because they've decided they would rather have Stafford, and Lance, Justin Fields, Wilson, Watson, and Wentz instead of using those first round picks on WHO?

Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis, Matt Corral, Sam Howell, and Desmond Ridder....

Not so crazy after all, huh?

4 Whew ...

As a Falcons fan, see the Subject line.. we have enough problems without gutting the draft for this guy.  

21 Yes, I can see why the…

In reply to by jw124164

Yes, I can see why the Falcons tried to make it happen, and I suspect Arthur Blank had the PR campaign all set up, but frankly I'm glad I don't have to root for Watson. And I'm fine with trading Ryan now.

My take as a longtime observer of sports is that it won't work out for Cleveland like they'd want it to.  And holy hell, the guaranteed money.

 

134 sex abuse allegations

Just a couple crude metrics, Ben R was suspended 6 games (reduced to four) when two women accused him.

So Watson'll be suspended 11 times as long, right?  66 Games!!!  Maybe not so much.

Dan Snyder was accused by a pretty large number of people of running an organization that was not much better, and the org leaked the Gruden emails to distract the masses from the investigation into their seedy history (got Gruden fired, then he sued. Where is that process these days?), and Goodell fined Snyder $10M as a result.  He's a billionaire.  Roughly speaking, that's like fining Watson about $1M, or making him sit out one quarter of a game.

The Browns are clearly fine with it. I lost all respect for Bruce Arians with the Antonio Brown thing, and any I had for the Browns for this. But they'll let him play from Day 1. 

So it's up to the NFL, and  I predict an 8-game suspension, reduced to 6 on appeal.  I believe the contract was structured so that this is minimally financially invasive for Watson.  Clever.  Sleazy, but clever.  At $50M per year, 6 games would be about $18M lost.  But if his year 1 salary is very low (and signing/roster bonuses compensate him instead), maybe he's out just a million or so in those 6-8 game paychecks.  Making me dislike this that much more.

I have this odd opinion that Jim Irsay of the Colts hires guys based on their religious affinity--going back to the Dungy days, I suspect he prioritizes a very public bible-thumping Christian possibly higher than skillset or fit (Maybe it was just a coincidence with Dungy, but it became a pattern with Jim Caldwell, not sure about Pagano, and now Reich/Wentz). Guys can have a stellar character without being overtly religious, Jim. Just saying.  If my suspicious is true, and there have been some failures because of it, I may gripe, but also have to acknowledge that those guys usually seem to be decent, stand-up human beings. Not a lot of police blotter fodder in Indy.

137 Epiphany

I hope Goodall has an epiphany and does something intelligent for a change: put Watson on the exempt list until all 22 suits are resolved, and then base any punishment on what comes out of that resolution.  That way, given the timeline so far, Watson may be into the subsequent (and more lucrative) years of his contract, and the punishment would have more bite.  And if bad enough stuff comes out, maybe the Browns could void this ridiculous contract. If not, too bad for them.

6 There are a lot of us in the…

There are a lot of us in the analytics world who have been rooting for Cleveland as an analytics-forward franchise waving the flag for our movement. I don't think we'll be rooting for Cleveland any more.

Why not? You were advocating for a cold, dispassionate analysis that completely discounts emotional, team, and human factors.

Now you're getting it good and hard.

This isn't a bug, guys. It's a feature.

32 half-heartedly tho'

I'll slightly second Aaron here. In rooting hard for Cleveland, you guys were rooting hard for Haslam, too. Who's a clown with very questionable ethics.

106 Why yes

Of COURSE you are. It's his team, Everything good that happens to them does eons more good for Snyder that it does for you or any single fan.

You can of COURSE root for Washington regardless. I'd even suggest not letting a guy like Snyder or anybody else take your beloved team away from you. But yes, when I'm rooting for the Mighty Pack I'm also rooting for Gutekunst/Lafleur/Rodgers and everyone else on the team no matter what I may personally think of them as people.

123 There's a slight difference…

In reply to by BigRichie

There's a slight difference though in that you can root for the Browns front office because while Haslam hired them, he's not specifically them or doing the things they do. So in some sense you can think you'd like to see their process succeed, but be conflicted about it because their success leads to Haslam's success too.

With Watson it's harder, because in the Browns front office went after Watson. So their specific process led them to go after Watson, which makes it now harder to be rooting for that process (and the people behind that process).

That being said I don't understand the "Browns are the analytics darlings" anyway - the teams that are really pushing strategic frontiers are Arizona and the Chargers. The Browns seemed to give a lot of lip service to "analytics" but I don't see any evidence that they actually do anything different.

33 That's why I don't like this…

That's why I don't like this aspect of modern-day society. We're all supposed to pass judgment on not one or two, but dozens upon dozens of socially relevant individuals by reading a couple of stories here and there. We all have jobs, we don't have the time to do the in-depth analysis of every case needed to determine the guilt or innocence of all these public figures. Same with democracy, frankly. No, I don't know who is more qualified to rule a country. No, I don't understand their economic proposals. Let the experts decide, that's what they're supposed to be there for.

 

36 I'm guessing football stats…

I'm guessing football stats websites are one of the few places where you can still see "technocracy is good" takes nowadays. Down that path lies only Third Way politics, means testing, and misery for most people. Would not recommend.

77 Well, you say you don't like…

Well, you say you don't like technocracy but in the last midterms here in Mexico we had wrestlers, a football talking head, former soccer players, soccer coaches, former boxers, former divers, former cyclists, a former Miss Universe, mariachi singers, actresses, etc. as candidates. The former president was a figurehead chosen because of his looks and they even got him married to a popular soap opera actress. The things he would say when he went off-script! He once made a mistake while reading a speech and tried to ad lib a correction. God how he made us laugh.

I think we're ahead of the curve in that respect, but that's where the world is headed. You need to be known and liked in order to win an election. Everything else comes second.

 

82 I don't see what that has to…

I don't see what that has to do with my comment on technocracy. You can have a stable and sane government without electing experts to political roles. You also don't have to vote for the vanity candidates; their presence on the ballot says nothing about technocracy. Really confused as to what your point was here.

96 My point was not that we…

My point was not that we should elect experts, but rather that experts, or at least people who fulfill some basic requirements, should elect officials, because people most of us really have no idea what's what. I figure it's much like the Pro Bowl versus the All-Pro team. If it's going to have any impact on my life, let alone the entire country, I want the All-Pro team.

110 This was essentially…

This was essentially Aristotle's position in his Politics, but it breaks down when one tries to actually implement it. There are two signal flaws. First, one starts from the proposition that people 'really have no idea what's what', so we have experts electing officials. But how do we decide who is a qualified expert? It becomes circular reasoning. I see no reason why deciding who counts as an 'expert' is a simpler task than picking the officials directly.

Even if one overcomes that objection, the second is even more telling. Experience shows that when you have a subset of people electing the leadership, however smart or qualified, inevitably they will choose the leadership that best serves their interests, not the interests of society as a whole. In fact, they generally won't even realize that, and will continue to argue that of course their decisions are the ones best for society, when they plainly aren't.

People often aren't good at figuring out what is in their own best interest. But everyone else is worse. If you want a government to reflect the interests of the people, your only hope is to let them all make the decision who should be in charge, and allow frequent changes of course when those decisions prove to be wrong (as they often will be).

126 Good post. I think all…

Good post. I think all systems of government are good and work, provided people behaved in an enlightened way. Unfortunately, that almost never happens. And if it did happen more often we might not even need government at all.

64 I feel this

This is definitely an issue with society today.  I see it a lot of things but it is pervasive in NFL fandom. 

As an example, you can't read a single story about Tyreek Hill without seeing comments about him beating his son, which was proven to have not happened at all but the initial headline still rules the story. The truth doesn't matter, only the first headline does.You don't even have to read the stories...just ride the wave.

83 Come on man. Investigators…

In reply to by cstoos

Come on man. Investigators just said his arm injury was consistent with a fall and there was a lack of physical evidence, not that Hill was completely absolved of guilt (notably, the league has reserved the right to reopen the case if new evidence emerges). There's also the fact that he viciously beat his girlfriend and pled guilty to that charge, and the child in question is her's. He used said child's injury as a way to intimidate his girlfriend, stating that she should "be afraid of him too".

You're welcome to believe the guy is innocent, but to my mind, he looks guilty as all hell. I don't blame anyone else for thinking the same.

7 As a Seahawks' fan

I feel like we dodged a bullet. The team would be better - assuming Watson is cleared to play - but it would be so difficult to root for him, especially in the wake of Wilson who was a bit boring but scandal free. OTOH, it also helps that we won a Super Bowl in my rooting lifetime, so it's easy to say that. If I were a lifelong Browns' fan, I might calculate differently.

49 I have had to hold my nose…

I have had to hold my nose with Kareem Hunt the past few years, and was embarrassed by Abe Elam's presence on our roster in the early '10s.

Jim Brown's off-field issues are a sore spot for everyone, on the last championship team, although I wasn't around then.

8 Goodell

Over to you Roger.  What are you going to rule?  (And how much does NFLPA have to say about it?)

53 From a monetary standpoint,…

In reply to by jds

From a monetary standpoint, worth noting that his renegotiation not only involved full guarantees, but lowering the "base" portion to $1mm for at least this coming season, to limit the amount that will be prorated in a suspension.

I also heard that he can postpone the suspension if he doesn't settle the cases this year, because he wouldn't be admitting guilt to anything yet - any truth to that?  Might be a case like Brady where he could kick the can down the road quite a while.

I am very interested to see the order of coming games, and if Case Keenum can get them off to a 3-3 start (and ideally, break the 0-16-1 record in the last 17 openers.)

10 I'm about 90% sure the guy's…

I'm about 90% sure the guy's a rapist, and I'd prefer to not watch rapists, so I'll avoid Browns games. Had the same reaction to Roethlisberger. I was a big fan of Watson prior to the revelations from the women. Strictly from a football performance aspect, it's a no brainer for the Browns.

95 Exactly what I'm thinking…

Exactly what I'm thinking. It's not just the acts were bad, but it seems like extremely compulsive behavior that was continuing up until the point the lawsuits were filed. One could speculate perhaps Houston even brought in Rev Easterby to council Watson. If the Texans couldn't get him to stop it, what hope do the Browns have? They better have an out in this contract. 

57 i was also a little…

i was also a little skeptical at first because the lawyer behind it has a history of BSing and is friends with the Texans' ownership...but there are stories out there from women who aren't involved with said lawyer and they say pretty much the same stuff about Watson.  That was enough to remove any shred of doubt for me.

12 It would be even funnier if…

It would be even funnier if the other 31 refused to trade for Mayfield -- not because I have anything against Mayfield -- but because I want to see Cleveland stagger through a season carrying a $60M cap hit for QBs. $66M if they cut Mayfield and keep Keenum.

That's only 50% higher than the next-highest team.

51 Gut feeling is that Browns…

Gut feeling is that Browns and Colts (I think Seahawks try to roll with Lock or maybe sign Mariota/Winston) have developed the framework for a trade concurrently with the Watson pursuit.

I refuse to believe that the 0-16 season was for basically nothing (wasted their own 2nd rounder on Austin Corbett; the 2nd rounder who did work out, Chubb, was the pick they got from the Texans for eating Osweiler's salary.)

80 I saw Baker wanted a trade…

I saw Baker wanted a trade to the Colts, but do the Colts actually want him? Why not Garoppolo? Seems like a better player to me. I would also prefer Winston, I think. Especially considering personality-wise Baker seems too close to Wentz for comfort.

92 It would, but Houston's case…

It would, but Houston's case was just one where they saw Baker and Mills were more or less redundant to each other, whereas not so with S. Ehlinger vs. Baker or D. Lock v. Baker.

Same with J.Goff being just good enough to not be redundant with Blough/Boyle.

I am also reading that technically the Watson trade isn't done until Baker is traded, due to Mayfield's cap hit?  Although because signing bonuses are spread out that might not be the case.

18 Saints Fan Here

Glad we missed out, for all the reasons you imagine.

22 Winston had 14 tds and 3 ints and a 103 rating in 2021

In reply to by DisplacedSaintsFan

I believe there would be (if the Saints could re-sign him) a never-ending reservoir of "WANT-TO PROVE IT" in Winston ...I think he'd be pretty motivated to have the best possible results.

He just turned 28, ( Watson will turn 27 in September)  knows the System, the Players, the Coaches, the Dome atmosphere, the city...and...

the price should be right!

 

20 Serious question. And I mean…

Serious question. And I mean this without choosing a side. But is anyone going to remember this if Watson balls out and plays well and even wins a SB? 

Lots and lots of athletes have had murky pasts and winning seems to cure it all. Big Ben's incidents are barely mentioned. I brought up Kobe a few months back. 

Unless the athlete is over the hill( Ray Rice); or an unapologetic scum bag(Greg Hardy); the media and the world largely forgives and forgets. 

23 i could see there being a…

i could see there being a bit of a generation gap when it comes to this.  The zoomers are much less willing to let these things slide - the Internet never forgets, after all...

EDIT: To give an example in a much nerdier but similar arena, there was a top competitive fighting game player who had highly credible accusations of domestic violence out there.  When he won one of the games at the biggest tournament of the year, the tournament's official Twitter account made a post saying "[Player]'s Triumphant Return" and people were outraged over that.  He never really faced the accountability he should have (especially considering he denied everything and encouraged social-media dogpiles on the accuser), and people still bring that up to this day.  It's been a, thus far, permanent stain on his reputation.

25 It seemed to work backwards…

It seemed to work backwards for Kobe. The younger generation completely embraced him. It was the older cohort that cast a jaundiced eye.

Kobe worked hard to rehabilitate his image, and his having daughters and touting women's sports helped his image. I'm not sure his is a repeatable model.

27 He could very well…

He could very well straighten out and never have another problem. 

For every guy who does that there is one where stuff keeps happening and it ends their career. You never know. 

It does make this trade interesting that it seems to be very boom or bust. If he reverts to form the Browns total win this.  If he legals himself out of the league they lose big.  The only case where it's 'meh' is if he gets hurt (that would be just random) or has a odd decline (seems unlikely given his age, unless sitting for a year hurt his form somehow...which seems unlikely)

 

 

50 "Big Ben's incidents are…

"Big Ben's incidents are barely mentioned"

Uh, not amongst the AFC North fandoms at least, along with major interdivision rivals i.e. Pats and maybe Raiders.

I accept all the bad karma I'm getting, on that note.

Hardy has actually had a solid second career in UFC, although Dana White is willing to put up with a lot more character issues in his stars than Goodell.

Kobe was probably the best case out there of a redemption story, even though things would be a lot different had the CO incident happened in 2017 or after.

30 What then is a 'brainer'?

So 3 firsts, 1 third and $230 mill are a "no brainer" for a top tier quarterback? About where is the approximate break-even point then? 6 firsts? 13? 30?

Analyticals are overvaluing QBs simply in reverence to a cliche, from what I can see.

59 The real analytical position…

The real analytical position is more like "1st-rounders are overrated, 2nd-rounders are underrated".  The guaranteed money is the scarier part of all this, honestly.

EDIT: And don't forget the NFL is a copycat league.  Someone was bound to try Sean McVay's 2021 approach for themselves.

68 Prior to the allegations, I…

Prior to the allegations, I would have wanted 6 drafts to feel good about trading him. As it is, getting anything at all feels like blood money. I just want him out of the league. I'd rather have cut him and gone after his signing bonus in court, or sat on him making him practice as a punt gunner until his contract expired.

71 Why? Currently it’s just…

Why?

Currently it’s just allegations: a trivial threshold. No one has proven anything to even a ‘more likely than not’ level, which is just a coin toss, let alone the ~95% criminal level. 
Grand Juries are just biased random number generators, but they also usually come in at much less than 95%, but exactly where is hugely variable.

Anyway, point is, at this point all we know we have is a group trading a smear for monetary demands. It could still just be fraudulent blackmail.

75 I know you're going to say…

I know you're going to say that you're just "presenting the facts as they exist", but suggesting it might be "fraudulent blackmail" is a despicable way to frame this situation and it reflects very poorly on you

79 On a day to day basis, I…

On a day to day basis, I deal a lot with provably false allegations. It sort of colors your view of humanity and the legal process.

An allegation is just that. It’s one person’s story. It’s the beginning, not the end.

111 I'd say it's a no-brainer, yeah

Plenty of teams have traded two firsts for a quarterback—namely, any team that gave up a first in that quarterback's draft plus a first in a future draft. The Niners gave up three firsts and a third for Trey Lance. The Rams gave up enough for Jared Goff that it was effectively on par with the Lance deal. The difference with Watson is that he has proven he's one of the top quarterbacks in the league and has done so for effectively three and a half seasons. Compare this price to what the Eagles gave up to get Wentz: one extra first in exchange for the certainty of landing a great player.

As for the guaranteed money, I don't see it as a problem, legal issues aside. The Browns missed out on the rookie-contract window, sure. But how many franchise quarterbacks get a second deal and don't see all the money they're promised inside the next five years? Guaranteeing it is effectively a formality.

Watson has played 53.5 regular-season games. Here are his prorated 16-game stats, which I'm using because (1) old habits die hard and (2) old benchmarks die harder:

Passing:
355 of 523 (67.8%) for 4,348 yards (8.3 YPA)
31 TDs, 11 INTs

Rushing:
92 rushes for 502 yards (5.5 YPC)
5 TDs, 3 FLs

If there's a reason to object to the contract, it's because you don't think he deserves $46M a year. And that might be quite fair! Here's a look at the top quarterback contracts by average annual value, courtesy of Spotrac:

  1. Rodgers ($50,271,667)
  2. Watson ($46,000,000)
  3. Mahomes ($45,000,000)
  4. Allen ($43,005,667)
  5. Prescott and Stafford ($40,000,000)

But if a front office decided that $43M was more accurate and $46M was certain to get the deal done, well ... better to guarantee it and get the player than to be penny-wise but pound-foolish (again: legal issues aside).

35 Conference gap

So, is the gap between the AFC and NFC higher this season then it was in 2004? 

58 Sure, but not many even…

Sure, but not many even pretend "you've gotta run the ball & stop the run" is an actual thing anymore.  That was the gospel back then, as the rules favored QBs less (though the 80s were a massive change from the 70s at least).  Having all the QBs is easily a bigger deal now, i'd say.

40 Kareem Hunt and Deshaun Watson on the same team

Also I remember some push last year about the Texans doing a deal before the draft to get max value. Safe to say, they got good value. And that's with civil cases still pending, he still got more than pristine Russ. And he's rewarded with the most guaranteed money all time. Top QBs retain so much value. 

Oh and that Mahomes contract just gets sweeter. Paying MVP QBs aint so bad because even the non MVPs pass em anyway.

Also AFCW comparison to AFCN

MVPs: Lamar=Mahomes

2020: Burrow=Herbert

Trade: Watson=Russ

Worst: Trubisky=Carr (no disrespect to Derek)

Steelers messed up.  

42 Lmao. I thought the Browns…

Lmao. I thought the Browns were supposed to be some analytic-driven organization with Paul Depodesta and others but I guess that means guaranteeing a quarter-Billion dollars to a QB that'll throw 35 TDs in a season and manage to lose 12 games while doing so.  Not to mention he's likely a complete turd off the field.

122 Yeah, it's a pretty massive…

Yeah, it's a pretty massive risk in my opinion. I would've understood it if they had just traded for him, period, but a fully guaranteed contract for that long for a QB who hasn't seen the field or effectively been with a coaching staff in over a year? Plus the fact that his last year was pretty heftily above his previous years in terms of basically all stats?

That's totally ignoring the fact that the allegations are still out there. They could literally be $60M+ into this contract when they realize he's not the QB he used to be. That's not an "analytics driven" decision.

56 I watch sports solely for what they do on the playing field

Decided a long time ago when it comes to athletes, I don't have enough time or energy to judge them by what they do or say off the field. My relationship with them starts and stops with what they do on the field/court and that's it.

 

If the league and the law says Watson is good to go then that's good enough for me. 

61 I'd  never suggest that…

I'd  never suggest that anyone ought to share my reaction to rapist entertainers. If Wagner can be performed before audiences in Tel Aviv, any performance can be seperated from the performer. It's just that I watch sports to get away from the degree of shittiness that exists in the world, and looking at a performer that I think is nearly certainly a rapist makes that more difficult.

81 Which is a good example of…

Which is a good example of why I prefer avoiding to remain as agnostic as possible about these things. Wagner lived way before the nazis, yet he's often considered a core one just because the nazis liked him.

129 I don't care whether people…

I don't care whether people judge public personalities or not, but Wagner's antisemitism doesn't prove or disprove anything with regard to whether should do it. My only point was that if Wagner, an antisemite who became a touchstone for the most evil form of antisemitism, can be performed in Tel Aviv, we can safely say that any entertainment can be seperated from the entertainer, by some audience. I certainly don't look down upon anyone who will continue to enjoy watching the Cleveland Browns as much as they have in the past, even if I'll probably be less likely to watch them, just because I'll find it less enjoyable.

85 Wagner

Great composer, horrible human being who acted as though he held first mortgage on the universe. However, it's 150 years since he died, and time has a way of smoothing over such things.  Watson is current events, Ben less so at least until his name comes up for HOF consideration.  (At which time it will be noted but unlikely to affect his enshrinement.)

63 It's hard to disbelieve 22…

It's hard to disbelieve 22 women who say something that will get them lots of money while hiding their identities, but it's easy to disbelieve 18 women masseuses who come forward with their identities and have nothing to gain who say those 22 women are full of shaving cream.

https://abc13.com/deshaun-watson-lawsuits-tony-buzbee-sexual-misconduct-allegations-texans-quarterback/10461007/

69 Eyeroll

The 18 don't say that though, do they? They just say he didn't assault them.

Harold Shipman had hundreds of patients who he didn't kill and thought he was a very nice doctor.

Burglar Bill didn't burgle every house he walked past.

Bonnie and Clyde occasionally just popped in to make a withdrawal.

66 FO asleep at the switch

No link from FO but reported from multiple sources that John Clayton has passed away.  Clayton was a terrific reporter, and a reporter through and through.  Frankly, his was not a face made for television, but his reporting was so compelling, that his reporting demanded air, even if his face did not.  Miss you John.

90 This is the United…

This is the United Sanitariums of America, nothing surpises me anymore.

The truth probably falls in the middle. He probably isnt the saint he tries to make us believe he is, but he also isnt the monster some want us to believe. 

Reading the filings of his case it reads like a bad case of a guy who thinks porn movies are instruction videos for life.

 

93 The fact that a grand jury…

The fact that a grand jury in Texas could not find enough evidence to indict on any specific case does not make Watson innocent.

He is still innocent until proven guilty.

Did American law change into twitter law?

Watson is still facing civil suits and the possibility of a suspension from the league. It's really hard to disbelieve 22 women all making similar accusations. 

Similar people in similar situations. It's actually quite easy if Watson ran around using massages as a set up.

Didnt all accusations come from the same law firm? 

I'll reserve my judgement until something is proven.

94 I am already resigned to the…

I am already resigned to the fact the Colts are going to trade for Mayfield, yet another QB with leadership and personality issues.

I wouldn't mind taking a flyer on Baker, but taking a flyer does not mean trading significant assets for him(the Colts already were out a 2nd and a first for one season of Wentz) and then giving him a huge contract to boot.

And Jimmy G can't stay healthy and even when healthy, I believe he's not much better than Wentz, just a different flavor of tier 3 who will again cost assets to acquire.

Sometimes, the best situation when you are flat broke isn't to borrow money from your parents and hit the craps table again.

97 Sharing an attorney

It seems Watson and Haslam share an attorney. Not just any attorney. (h/t Hugh Hewitt)

https://www.barstoolsports.com/blog/3409939/based-on-what-i-know-about-rusty-hardin-im-ready-to-bet-the-farm-deshaun-watson-to-cleveland-a-done-deal
 

103 My mother's been a Browns…

My mother's been a Browns fan practically her whole life, and my father since he met her and moved to Ohio...and they've already said they will not watch the team this year, at all.  Even if this kind of reaction may not be extremely common overall, i maintain it will be significantly more common in Cleveland than it would've been in any of the NFC South cities he was considering.  We're heading for one of the weirdest dynamics for a sports fanbase that i can recall...

107 I didn't grow up with the…

I didn't grow up with the Browns but I adopted them as my "second team, in the other Conference" when I lived in Cleveland for awhile, so my fandom is different. And I can't say I won't watch them at all this year, but I'm sure as hell not going to go out of my way to watch them in the foreseeable future.

Obviously what Watson did is much worse than the rest of this, ethically, but over the last 5 years we've had: intentional tanking to the point of not even trying to compete at all (I have little question that Hue Jackson's accusations are largely accurate); Freddie Kitchens turning the whole team into a bunch of belligerent a-holes; OBJ pouting his way off the team/Mayfield being such a brash, surly prick everyone wants to get away from him; and now going all-in on a serial sex pest as the franchise cornerstone. I can't say I'm particularly rooting for them at this point. It was more fun when they were just incompetent.

108 With regards to Hue Jackson,…

With regards to Hue Jackson, what accusations do you mean, bc he already walked back on getting money to lose. I think the Browns at the time were not trying to win much and trying to save cap space, not sign any expensive free agents. But i am pretty sure that Hue Jackson is the coach that we think he is as well documented during Hard Knocks. 

I have rarely if ever seen teams less prepared for games. Maybe because the players didnt care bc they knew they were set up to lose. 

Calling time out before the first snap of the game, delay of game penalties before the first snap of the game... Hue is not blaming Haslam for that, is he?

112 i think what makes this feel…

i think what makes this feel a lot more awkward than situations like Roethlisberger is the fact that Watson wasn't originally "one of our own" so to speak.  Though i of course despise this practice, it's a longtime standard in sports fandom to support the players who started out with your team or have been there a long time, even if they did genuinely awful things with no remorse.  But when the team trades & pays the farm for a player *after* all the allegations came out, that hits a lot differently as a fan.

i think this is especially true for a lot of the older Midwest fanbases that tend to view players more like family when compared to a NY or LA, and Cleveland is just about the epitome of that.

EDIT: Another possible minor part of this is Watson's previous history as an enemy of Ohio, given Clemson's playoff drubbing of Ohio State with him under center.  The Buckeyes are practically as big as the Browns even in Cleveland itself, after all.

114 Well, Baker embarrassed OSU…

Well, Baker embarrassed OSU similarly in the relatively recent past and almost everyone forgot about it (other than Nick Bosa, who responded with a flag-plant gesture of his own after sacking Baker in the 2019 49ers-Browns game.)

I think the "view like family" thing is largely in the rear-view mirror even in the midwest (there was a time in the 1980s and before where NFL players made basically upper-middle-class salaries and often lived in similar neighborhoods to us commoners.)

113 .

(meant to reply to above)

117 The truth, as often, is…

 

Having read the accusations I think it is safe to conclude Watson had a ...hobby... of booking masseuses, getting aroused and hoping more would happen.

Of the 22, my guess is that 1/3 were genuinely shocked, upset and/or felt disrespected, 1/3 don't care as much but want this behavior to stop and 1/3 are looking for an extra pay day. 

 

119 Browns will be Browns

From a purely football standpoint, not even factoring in the likelihood of suspension, this a horrible transaction for the Browns.  You can overspend on a quarterback if you have cheap assets with which to surround him.  Those assets generally come in the form of draft picks.  Whoops.  The Factory of Sadness keeps churning out product. 

120 "you have cheap assets with which to surround him"

They still have 8 picks this year (in the top 247) though? Same as Denver. Cleveland actually got to keep a premium pick (44, yikes Houston) while Denvers first isn't til 64. 
 

Unless you're talking about future years then...meh. They fit him and the worst they're losing next year I think is Ward. 

136 What specifically happened…

What specifically happened that made Watson sour on the Texans to the point where he wouldn't play for them, even after they brought in a new head coach?

Will the success of this new contract embolden him to try to be more assertive in his new situation?

How would you like to be the Browns' head coach now that there is a new king in town?

Will hubris cause Watson and the Browns to underachieve?

138 BOB stunk

And they didn't even interview an (obvious) candidate in Bieniemy like he requested. Can't blame him. I'd be pissed too seeing my team interview JOSH MCCOWN instead. And the as was foretold, Culley was a last second fall guy to say "hey we're not racist, see".