I was in the middle of writing an editorial piece on Baker Mayfield and Browns’ free agency when the surprising tweet was made by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network: Deshaun Watson changed his mind and is waiving his no-trade clause to Cleveland. Browns fans: say goodbye to Mayfield, because Watson just became the team’s new franchise quarterback.
Deshaun Watson’s Contract
Deshaun Watson gets a fully guaranteed 5 year $230M contract. That is $80M more than the previous record for fully guaranteed money at signing ($150M). This deal was negotiated by David Mulugheta of Athletes First. https://t.co/nQls9WRpD1— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 18, 2022
Per Rapoport, the Browns are giving Watson a fully guaranteed 5-year contract worth $230 million. They are going all in and banking on him being the single difference-maker who can lead them to a Super Bowl. Cleveland had been clearing some cap room by cutting the likes of Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper, and J.C. Tretter over the past week, three starters on offense last year.
In addition, the Browns are reportedly building in some protection for Watson if (when?) he is suspended by the NFL as his base salary for the 2022 season is just $1 million, according to Rapoport. This means any money that Watson loses in the event of a suspension is reduced.
Important contract note for Deshaun Watson, who got a 5-year, $230M contract. His base salary for 2022 is $1M, which means if he’s suspended, it’ll come out of that base.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 18, 2022
And speaking of that possible suspension.
What does the NFL think of all this?
Following the news of the trade, the NFL released a statement from its PR man Brian McCarthy stating that the league’s investigation is ongoing, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
Statement from NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy in light of the Deshaun Watson trade. The league’s investigation is ongoing. pic.twitter.com/p5mCg2fHiS— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 18, 2022
The statement reads:
“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’s investigation determines that Watson violated the Personal Conduct Policy, discipline may be imposed pursuant to the policy and the CBA.”
What Are the Browns Giving Up?
Adding to the “all-in” mentality, Cleveland is giving up a lot. Per Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, Cleveland is expected to deal three first-round picks. ESPN’s Adam Schefter later stated that the other two picks are expected to be a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick.
Source says the #Texans will be acquiring three first round picks and two additional picks - on day two or three - from the #Browns for Deshaun Watson. Five total picks, including three first rounders.— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) March 18, 2022
At least Cleveland got to host the NFL Draft last year when they still had a first-rounder; it sounds like they won’t have another one until 2025.
What About Baker Mayfield?
Cleveland will also work on a deal to trade Mayfield now too, although the team figures to get peanuts in return for him, comparatively speaking. Two teams rumored to have been interested in Mayfield are the Seattle Seahawks, after having dealt Russell Wilson away, and the Indianapolis Colts, who shipped Carson Wentz away. We’ll update this post with more information as it comes along.