Two offseasons ago, the Cleveland Browns made a major move at quarterback. They traded for Deshaun Watson in March 2022, meaning they had little use for their previous quarterback, Baker Mayfield. The Browns sent Mayfield to the Buccaneers in July 2022.
The Watson deal featured an insane amount of guaranteed money — $230 million over five seasons. Watson was also in the midst of nearly two dozen sexual harassment allegations, which ultimately led to a ten-game suspension.
Signing Watson was already a risky investment. And so far, it’s looked like a bad decision by the Browns. The team just announced Watson needs surgery on his fractured right throwing shoulder and is out for the year. In two seasons, he’s played in 12 games. He’s made $92 million, or a whopping $7.7 million per game.
Last year, the Browns finished 3-3 in games Watson played. This season, they were 5-1 in games he started, though one of those games ended in an injury after just one completion in five pass attempts. On the year, Watson finished with 1,146 yards, seven touchdowns, and four interceptions, completing 61.4 percent of his passes.
Those are fine numbers, but you’d think Watson would bring more electricity to the passing game. He’s never passed for more than 300 (or even 290) yards as a Brown, and he’s been sacked 37 times, which certainly hasn’t helped his array of injuries.
Now, the Browns — in what’s likely the toughest division in all of football — will have to navigate the rest of the season with rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson and journeyman signal-caller PJ Walker.
Regarding the injury, Watson said he was “still in disbelief” and “hurt about it.” The Browns probably feel the same way. They owe Watson another $138 million guaranteed over the next three years. He’s expected to be ready to go at the start of the 2024 season, but how will he bounce back from this injury?
Maybe Watson returns to the superb form he displayed while with the Houston Texans. And maybe he’s available for an entire season and gives the Browns stability at the quarterback position for the first time in years.
Until then, the decision to trade for Watson looks like a rough investment for the Browns.