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Could the Browns pursue a trade for Deshaun Watson? Would they? Should they?

Veteran QB is now no longer a legal liability

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

On Friday, a grand jury was presented with all of the evidence compiled from nine criminal complaints filed by 22 women against Houston Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson. At the end of the day, all nine were returned as no bills. This means that the criminal accusations against Watson were all dropped.

“Today we presented nine criminal complaints for consideration by the grand jury. Beginning at 9 o’clock this morning, we presented evidence for over six hours for the grand jury to consider, as well as having witnesses available for those persons to testify in front of the grand jury,” said Johna Stallings, division chief of adult sex crimes and trafficking at the Harris County, Texas District Attorney’s Office. “And the grand jury considered all of that evidence and returned nine no bills against Deshaun Watson involving these nine criminal complaints. We respect the grand jury’s decision and ... conclude the criminal proceedings in Harris County.”

Watson sat out the entire 2021 season while this investigation played out which was nearly a full year after the first civil lawsuit was filed against him.

This came on the heels of Watson asking the Texans for a trade since he was not content about the current roster especially the offensive line plus the club trading their most valuable playmaker DeAndre Hopkins. He was also unhappy that the franchise wasn’t going forward each season and making the necessary movement towards building a winning team.

During his absence, the Texans settled on QB Davis Mills.

So now, what are the Texans going to do with Watson?

One of the AFC’s best young QBs

Make no doubt about it, the AFC is chock full of really, really good quarterbacks. Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert and now you can add Russell Wilson to that list. Before the charges, Watson was another name that was considered the new face of the league since lengthy veterans Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodg.....oh wait...he’s still playing.

The Texans have an enigma in front of them. What to do with Watson?

Houston has a new head coach in Lovie Smith who was the club’s Associate head coach & defensive coordinator in 2021. But that was his only year with the Texans. So, even though Smith definitely knows Watson’s abilities and capabilities, he didn’t coach him.

NFL Combine
Nick Caserio
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The same is true for Texans’ GM Nick Caserio. He came to Houston in 2021 as well and inherited Watson as their squad’s starting quarterback until the reports and accusations began to fly. Before that, Caserio spent 20 years with the New England Patriots so he knows a thing or two about building a winning franchise.

Earlier this month, Caserio did a sit-down with Sports Illustrated specifically about Watson (6’-2”, 215 pounds). The question they asked was: What is the status of quarterback Deshaun Watson?

“We’re day-to-day in terms of handling that,” Caserio said. “Once the information becomes more relevant and prevalent, then we’ll handle it accordingly. My philosophy from the beginning has always been to do the right thing by the Houston Texans organization and we’re going to continue to do that here moving forward.”

What an ominous beginning for Caserio as the new GM of an NFL team. Watson faced extensive legal issues which resulted from 22 civil lawsuits and supposedly 10 criminal complaints stemming from activity from March 2020 through March of 2021.

“I think the only strain is the discussion that you all had,” Caserio added. “You guys have probably spent more time on it than we have, I think.”

As of Friday’s results, Caserio and the Texans aren’t releasing any thoughts about his results.

Cincinnati Bengals v Houston Texans Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Since the hearing on Friday, Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin issued this statement:

“Deshaun Watson did not commit any crimes and is not guilty of any offenses. We are delighted that the grand jury has looked at the matter thoroughly and reached the same conclusion we did. It’s time to let Deshaun move on.”

Watson’s contract was a four-year extension signed in only his second season worth $156 million. He is guaranteed $73M and set to become a free agent in 2026. His cap hit in 2022 will be $40.4 million with a base salary of $35M.

Watson released the following after the grand jury’s ruling:

“I’m going to keep fighting to rebuild my name and rebuild my appearance in the community.. We’re going to continue on the legal side to handle what we need to handle, but also ready to get back on the field, been prepping for that and ready to go for that I thank my team for keeping me up this past year. I’m going to continue to keep pushing forward to build my name to where it was, if not better. I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for letting the truth be heard. And I thank everyone that was a part of this for seeing and hearing both sides.”

Should the Browns be interested?

It is almost a sure bet that the Texans will move from Watson. He was not happy before the legal situations were brought forth and the club moved on.

Mills (6’-4”, 225 pounds) started 11 games with Houston last year and had 263 completions on 394 attempts for 2,664 yards, 16 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, completion ratio of 66.8% with a QB rating of 88.8. He also had 18 rushes for 44 yards (five for first downs) and sacked 31 times. The Texans have stated Mills is their starting quarterback going forward.

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

In Watson’s four seasons before being sidelined with the legal issues, Watson started 53 games with 1,186 completions on 1,748 attempts for 14,539 yards, 104 touchdowns, 36 interceptions, completion ratio of 67.8% with an average QB rating of 104.5. Watson rushed for 1,677 yards on 307 attempts with 17 touchdowns and 111 rushes for first downs. His sack total of 174 times was one of his objections to the front office about building up the offensive line.

Watson led the NFL in passing yards in 2020.

One thing about Watson, he is a very good runner. He can make plays with his legs as well as his arm. And opposing defenses must account for his scrambling abilities.

Should the Browns and GM Andrew Berry make an attempt to contact Caserio about what they plan on doing with Watson?

Cleveland has already come out and stated that QB Baker Mayfield is their guy going into 2022. Every Browns’ fan will tell you that he regressed last year although injured.

Watson has been very durable. In late 2019 he injured his back and dressed out as the backup for one game. In 2017, he tore his right ACL in a practice session late in the year. In college while at Clemson, he suffered a sprained LCL, shoulder clavicle fracture, finger fracture and suffered a left knee ACL tear Grade 3.

For Mayfield, in 2021 alone he had a shoulder labrum tear that he nursed all season, he reinjured that shoulder in a Week 6 loss to Arizona, had a Grade 1 knee sprain in the New England loss, and had left shoulder surgery. In 2020 Mayfield suffered a rib injury in Week 5. In college he had two concussions plus a Grade 1 knee strain.

Mayfield is in the final year of his rookie contract. It was speculated that during the 2021 season the front office would sign him to multi-year mega deal, but that never happened. Instead, the Browns exercised their fifth-year option on him and seems content to have a “wait and see” approach for him to be added to that aforementioned young AFC superstar quarterback list.

What would it take to get Watson in CLE?

Watson’s final three seasons in Houston were all Pro Bowl years. Mayfield has yet to sniff the all-star game.

Many have stated that the Browns are a quarterback away from being a very good playoff contender. Obviously, Watson would fit that requirement.

The AFC North is a tough division. Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson are already on fire. The Pittsburgh Steelers just lost their starting QB to retirement and are now in the market for a new guy. It was assumed that would come in the first round of this year’s April draft. Could the Steelers be on the phone to Caserio as you are reading this? Lord knows Browns’ fan do not want to see yet another stud quarterback within the division.

Since the Browns have not offered Mayfield a long-term extension so far this offseason, will Mayfield be sort of a lame-duck QB who must prove his worth?

Cincinnati Bengals v Houston Texans Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

One thing for certain: Cleveland is not in a rebuild mode. They are poised to win now. As a running team, that fits perfectly into Watson’s running abilities. Can you imagine this offense run by Deshaun Watson?

Besides, the Browns have arguably the best offensive line in the league. How perfect is that for Watson? Wasn’t that one of his concessions of wanting out of Houston? He would welcome being in a huddle of two Pro Bowl linemen and so much talent all across this front.

But what it would it take?

The Broncos just traded three starters, two first round draft picks, two second round draft picks and a fifth round pick to Seattle for Russell Wilson (along with a fourth round pick).

That.

That is what it would take to get Deshaun Watson in an orange uniform. Seattle got bank for Wilson. The Texans will want the same. Whereas Wilson will turn 34 during this upcoming season, Watson is just 26.

And don’t think for one second the Browns aren’t the only clubs thinking that a Watson trade could greatly benefit their offense. There will be a handful of suitors for sure. The teams mentioned so far are Seattle, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and New Orleans.

Carolina has reportedly already made an offer to Houston in the form of three first round picks plus RB Christian McCaffrey.

By the way, Watson has a no-trade clause attached to his contract so any destination would have to have his blessing.

Several media outlets have already noted the Browns’ interest in Watson. Cleveland’s 92.3 The Fan has stated that Berry likes what Watson brings to the field as he has been taking notes of his legal situation. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com stated early Friday evening that the Browns and especially Berry have Watson on their radar.

Cabot also mentioned the following:

“The Browns are also committed to upgrading the team in every way possible, and Mayfield, coming off his worst career season and subsequent torn labrum surgery, is heading into the final year of his contract.”

With criminal charges off the table, could Berry take a shot at Watson?

Would he? Should he?

Poll

Should the Browns be interested in trading for Deshaun Watson given the parameters of what draft capital and veteran players they would have to give up?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    Absolutely
    (1117 votes)
  • 49%
    Negative
    (1087 votes)
2204 votes total Vote Now