Falcons ‘Pushed Back’ on Deshaun Watson’s Demands

Deshaun Watson

Getty The Falcons "pushed back" on Watson's demands.

Deshaun Watson won’t suit up for the Atlanta Falcons this season. Despite appearances the Falcons were going to win the race for the hometown star, Watson instead chose the Cleveland Browns on Friday, March 18.

The Houston Texans’ quarterback will join the Browns on a contract that’s fully guaranteed, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:

It’s an eye-watering sum, but money is one reason the Falcons’ hopes stalled. Two NFL Network reporters have revealed how the Falcons baulked at the “monetary demands” from Watson and his representatives.

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Money Made Falcons Blink

The Falcons were in the running, along with the Browns and NFC South rivals the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints. Watson had initially rebuffed the Browns after meeting with all the interested parties.

Yet, as NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo detailed, communication continued between Watson’s camp and Browns’ general manager Andrew Berry. Garafolo pointed out how the “Panthers pushed back on some of the monetary demands from Watson and his camp, as did the Falcons. That was what was happening today.”

Garafolo referenced a Falcons-specific report from his colleague James Palmer that confirmed money was the sticking point:

Any push back from the Falcons must have been strong because the franchise entered the day as firm favorites to eventually land Watson. A significant local connection from Watson’s days playing at Georgia’s Gainesville High appeared to put the Falcons in pole position.

Many reporting on the ongoing story, including CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson believed Watson would choose the Falcons:

Ultimately, the Falcons’ about turn may not be too shocking. Not when it’s stacked up against the hefty price the Browns have paid.

First, there’s a contract ESPN’s Jim Trotter pointed out will pay Watson the “most guaranteed money” in league history. Second, the Browns parted with significant draft capital the next few years to get Watson, with Schefter putting the final haul at three first-round picks and 2022 third- and fourth-round choices.

Those picks represent precious assets for a team firmly in rebuild mode like the Falcons. It’s also a franchise with just $5,424,973 worth of room under the salary cap, according to Spotrac.com.

That’s not a lot of resources for a team still with many holes on the roster, including offensive line, pass rush and wide receiver. A team that also has some vital damage control to do with its incumbent quarterback.

Falcons Back to Building Around Ryan, Maybe

Going all in for Watson so publicly isn’t likely to have endeared the Falcons to Matt Ryan. The 36-year-old is still the starter, and now the Falcons need to convince Ryan he’s still wanted, per Rapoport:

That won’t be easy since the Falcons lined up several moves to prepare for Ryan’s replacement. Those moves included delaying payment of a roster bonus due Ryan until Tuesday, a move Schefter described as designed to give the veteran time to find a trade partner.

The best way to get Ryan back on side will be to surround him with more talent than he played alongside in 2021. It will require adding a playmaking wide receiver or two, as well as putting some superior blockers into the trenches.

If the Falcons expect Ryan to have a short memory regarding events this offseason, they need to make him believe he can still win big in Atlanta, and sooner rather than later.

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