The Cleveland Browns are reportedly still investigating a trade for quarterback Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans.
That is according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, who cites unnamed sources who believe the Browns are interested in acquiring Watson, who did not play in 2021 while dealing with lawsuits filed by 22 women who have accused him of inappropriate behavior and sexual assault.
On Friday, a prosecutor in Harris County, Texas, announced that Watson will not face criminal charges, which opened up the floodgates of speculation about which team will be willing to bring Watson on board.
The #Browns are still exploring a trade for #Texans QB Deshaun Watson, and will have to offer multiple first-round picks, Baker Mayfield and maybe other players https://t.co/NdLH6xRewO— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) March 13, 2022
According to Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson, the Browns are one of eight teams that have contacted the Texans about Watson. In addition to Cleveland, the list includes the Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints.
Related: Could the Browns pursue a trade for Deshaun Watson? Would they? Should they?
Any interested team would have to contend with Watson’s no-trade clause as well, so even if the Browns do eventually offer up a trade package, Watson can simply shoot it down.
On Sunday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported that the Panthers and Saints have made trade offers, but did not provide details of what each team is offering. Pelissero did report that Houston is looking for three first-round picks and players in exchange for Watson.
From Free Agency Frenzy: The #Saints and #Panthers have offers out on Deshaun Watson, who wants to meet with any serious suitors. pic.twitter.com/mn5y5ezIUo— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 13, 2022
Under that trade scenario, the Browns could offer up incumbent quarterback Baker Mayfield along with that trio of first-round picks since they would no longer need his services with Watson on the roster. If the Texans are not interested in Mayfield, a player that many Browns fans have determined is beyond salvageable, then it might require giving up a player like Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward to seal the deal, according to Cabot.
The player(s) and draft picks need to acquire Watson are just part of the equation, of course. Given the nature of accusations against Watson, the Browns would need a firm plan in place to deal with what would be a significant public relations hit.
The club does have a recent history of dealing with players who have found trouble off the field in running back Kareem Hunt and defensive tackle Malcolm McDowell.
Neither of those players plays quarterback, a position that is the de facto face of the franchise, and not to minimize what they did, but Watson’s off-field issues are on a completely different level.
In any event, with free agency and the new league year opening this week, there should be a quick resolution to where Watson will play next season.