Browns QB Deshaun Watson Put on Notice Ahead of Critical Season

If Deshaun Watson fails to produce this year, the Cleveland Browns could find themselves in the market for a quarterback next offseason.

The Browns’ 2022 blockbuster trade for Watson has been a dud for Cleveland. Due to a lengthy suspension and injuries, Watson has appeared in just 12 games. And when he’s been on the field, Watson hasn’t looked like the Pro Bowl passer he was in Houston.

Following the trade, the Browns committed $230 million of fully guaranteed money to Watson. He’s locked in with Cleveland through the 2026 season. His cap hit sits at around $64 million for each of those years. However, that may not keep the Browns from exploring their options if Watson disappoints.

Zac Jackson of The Athletic laid out the “worst-case scenario” for the Browns, which would be Watson either getting hurt again or failing to look like a viable option coming off season-ending shoulder surgery.

“What if he isn’t healthy in 2024, or gets hurt again? What if the offense doesn’t take a leap with Watson coming back to play under new offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey?” Jackson wrote on April 28. “Twenty-five months and three drafts past the Watson trade, there’s still a chance it will be remembered as a huge mistake. If that’s the case, the Browns could be in the quarterback market next year despite Watson being under contract through 2026.”

Browns Haven’t Reflected on Deshaun Watson Trade

The Browns will have their first-round pick next season. It’s a tool the team has not had available for the past three drafts due to the Watson trade. Cleveland gave up six picks in all, including a trio of first-rounders.

At this point, it’s easy to say the Houston Texans won the trade. Adding to the sting is the fact that the Texans embarrassed the Browns 45-14 in a Wild Card matchup, ending their 2023 season.

Browns GM Andrew Berry said he hasn’t reflected on the deal being complete now that Houston has used all the picks from their Watson haul.

“I’ll be honest in truth, I haven’t thought about it that way or spent any time reflecting on it,” Berry said on April 27. “I really just look at it as, ‘Hey, here are resources in a given year. How do we best apply them to the team to make it better in the short and long term?’ So that’s not something I really think about.”

Berry joked that they have a full complement of picks “for now” but is looking forward to a more complete draft.

“It’ll be great to have kind of our full complement of draft picks back, for sure. How we deploy them, we’ll see over the next year,” Berry said.

Deshaun Watson Expected to be Ready for Week 1

Watson appears to be in a good spot with his injury rehab. Although he’s not expected to be fully cleared until training camp, all signs point to Watson being ready for Week 1.

“We feel really good about it,” Berry said on April 18. “I’m not going to make any predictions, just because you just never know. But that’s certainly our expectation.”

Watson has been adamant that he’ll be ready to roll for Week 1.

“When I’m throwing it, everything is fluid and motion is really good,” Watson said on April 16. “The velocity and the strength is really good. … I feel really good, very confident in myself.”

Watson has passed for 2,217 yards, 14 touchdowns and 9 interceptions with the Browns.

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