The Browns were informed on Thursday that Watson does not want to come to Cleveland, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
The #Browns have been informed they’re out of the running for Deshaun Watson, a source says. The team still views Baker Mayfield as their quarterback going forward. They told Mayfield’s agents at the Combine they’d only explore top-tier QBs such as Watson.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 17, 2022
The Browns met with Watson on Tuesday in an attempt to convince him to accept a trade to Cleveland. They did so knowing that Watson is still dealing with civil lawsuits filed by 22 women who have accused him of inappropriate behavior and sexual assault.
Whatever they told Watson is wasn’t enough for him to waive his no-trade clause and choose the Browns, so now they are on to Plan B or possibly beyond.
While it seems difficult to see incumbent quarterback Baker Mayfield remaining the starter, Garofolo reported that Browns still believe that Mayfield is the starter and will now work to repair any real or perceived damage their pursuit of Watson had on Mayfield.
Some of that work will include reminding Mayfield that they never told him they would not look around for a new quarterback, according to NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala and ESPN’’s Kimberley A. Martin:
My understanding is #Browns braintrust believes it did just what it told Baker Mayfield's camp it would: investigate if a top-tier QB was avail. Kevin Stefanski said 2 wks ago he had confidence in Mayfield as his starter; he still does. So: does Mayfield want to be his starter?— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) March 17, 2022
Andrew Berry should have told Baker directly about Deshaun interest — if for no other reason than making life simpler knowing Baker’s personality.— KimberlEY A. Martin (@ByKimberleyA) March 17, 2022
But his camp knew CLE would explore all options, so this wasn’t out of the blue — so how is this situation complicated? ♀️
How well that goes over with Mayfield remains to be seen, especially after the flirtation with Watson led Mayfield to post on social media how he has given everything he has to the Browns over the past four seasons.
If the damage is beyond repair, or if the Browns truly do believe that any option is better than Mayfield, they could look to make a lateral move and see what the San Francisco 49ers would want for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, or take a step backward and sign free agent quarterback Jameis Winston, although if the Saints miss out on Watson they might need Winston to return.
There could be a similar situation in Atlanta if Watson chooses the Falcons, making Matt Ryan expendable.
There is also the outside chance that Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels really does not want to start his first season in Las Vegas with Derek Carr as his quarterback, but that has always felt more like speculation than reality. Or if not Carr, then perhaps free agent Marcus Mariota if the Raiders do not want him back.
The only certainty at the moment is that Watson will not be lining up behind center for the Browns this fall. Just who will be taking those snaps remains to be seen.