The Cleveland Browns will not try to void the contract of embattled quarterback Deshaun Watson despite another wave of controversy that has included new civil suits and allegations.
The Browns are “all in” on Watson, according to a June 10 story by Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, and have no plans to try to move on from him and the fully guaranteed $230 million contract they gave him following a blockbuster trade this offseason with the Texans.
There was some belief that the recent suits and an in-depth New York Times story published June 7 would catch the Browns off guard. But the Browns haven’t flinched, with the franchise standing behind Watson. Per Cabot:
So far, nothing has transpired since he signed the deal in March that has caused the Browns to change their view of Watson or contemplate trying to get out of the contract — not even the 24th suit filed Wednesday.
Likewise, sources say nothing has taken place that has the Browns trying to void the blockbuster trade with the Texans — which included sending three first-round draft picks and three other picks to the Texans in exchange for Watson and a sixth-rounder — even though the Texans will be soon be added to the suits as a defendant for allegedly enabling Watson’s misconduct.
Watson did not play a snap last season with the Texans as his legal case unfolded. However, his potential as a franchise quarterback is well-documented. Prior to sitting out, he had a trio of Pro Bowl seasons, including a career year in 2020, when he passed for 4,823 yards, 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.
Watson’s Lawyer Calls Latest Claims ‘Totally False’
The Browns said they did “extensive” research into Watson before trading their 2022, 2023 and 2024 first-round draft selections, as well as two other picks, in the deal.
“We have done extensive investigative, legal and reference work over the past several months to provide us with the appropriate information needed to make an informed decision about pursuing him and moving forward with him as our quarterback,” Browns general manager Andrew Berry said in a statement following the trade.
Watson’s lawyer Rusty Hardin said the team was still completely behind Watson and called the new allegations “totally false.”
“The Browns and all of us that know Deshaun are still totally behind him,” Hardin told cleveland.com. “These latest claims by [plaintiffs’ attorney Tony] Buzbee change nothing, and they are totally false, and that will ultimately be what everyone concludes when they hear the evidence.”
The Browns’ show of support hasn’t changed the reality that Watson might get a significant suspension from the league. Cabot called a suspension a “foregone conclusion” for either for a specific number of games or indefinitely.
Browns Have No Plans to Start Baker Mayfield
While quarterback Baker Mayfield remains on the Browns’ roster due to a limited trade market, Cleveland has no plans to put him on the field, even if Watson is suspended for a significant amount of time.
Mayfield’s near $19 million salary for next season has been the sticking point in negotiations, with teams around the league pushing the Browns to eat the majority of that number. Cabot reported that even if Mayfield sticks around, it’ll be veteran backup Jacoby Brissett taking the starting reps.
“For starters, I think the Browns will find a trade partner for Mayfield before training camp even if they have to pay part of his $18.86 million salary. I think some team will be smart enough to trade for Mayfield, who can still help a team and represents an upgrade over a handful of current starters in the NFL,” Cabot reported in May. “But if for some reason Mayfield is still hanging around at the start of the season, he won’t start for Watson if he’s suspended. That job will go to No. 2 quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who’s been here working in the offseason program and developing timing with his new teammates.”
We’ll see how everything unfolds, but it appears Mayfield has played his final snap in orange and brown. READ MORE.