Browns Make Final Call on Super Bowl QB to Fill in For Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson

Getty Images Quarterback Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns, flanked by general manager Andrew Berry (left) and head coach Kevin Stefanski.

The Cleveland Browns are setting the table to trade for a former Super Bowl starting quarterback in the likely event that Deshaun Watson is suspended longer than six games.

Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reported that the team is considering whether to pursue San Francisco 49ers signal caller Jimmy Garoppolo should an NFL appeal to Watson’s suspension result in a longer punishment.

“The Browns will consider acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo if Deshaun Watson’s six-game suspension significantly increases upon appeal, league sources tell cleveland.com,” Cabot reported on Thursday, August 11.

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Browns Changing Course on Backup QB Jacoby Brissett

Jacoby Brissett

Getty ImagesQuarterbacks Jacoby Brissett (left) and Deshaun Watson (right) of the Cleveland Browns talk during a team training camp session.

Garoppolo has been considered a viable option in Cleveland ever since NFL commissioner Roger Goodell decided to appeal Watson’s suspension — an indicator that the league did not believe the quarterback’s punishment was extensive enough based on his violations of its code of conduct policy.

Cabot’s report Thursday represents a clear shift away from the line the Browns had been holding under center, which was that backup Jacoby Brissett would take the reins in Watson’s stead. Brissett was one of four quarterbacks the franchise acquired this offseason — along with Watson, Josh Dobbs and Josh Rosen — both before and after Cleveland traded four-year starter Baker Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers.

A move toward Garoppolo means two things: that the Browns’ front office isn’t willing to trash an expensive season before it even begins, and that they don’t believe Brissett is a long-term solution who will result in the team winning in a meaningful way.

Somewhat ironically, Brissett was actually teammates with Garoppolo behind Tom Brady with the New England Patriots back in 2016. Brissett has also been a member of the Indianapolis Colts and the Miami Dolphins, amassing a career record of 14-23 as a starter across all three stops.


Price For Garoppolo Likely to Increase The Longer Browns Wait

Jimmy Garoppolo

Getty Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers reacts during the third quarter against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at AT&T Stadium on January 16, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Should the Browns acquire Garoppolo, the price will be steep — and in more ways than just one.

Entering the final year of a five-year contract, Garoppolo would count just shy of $27 million against the Browns’ salary cap. Cleveland can afford to absorb the QB’s deal with relative ease, as they lead the NFL with nearly $49 million in cap space as of Thursday.

The second area of cost will be measured in what the Browns will have to give up to bring Garoppolo into the fold.

Matt Lombardo of Heavy.com on Monday spoke with coaches and executives throughout the NFL regarding a potential trade between the Browns and 49ers for the QB. One NFC executive explained that Garoppolo’s value at that time was probably in the ballpark of a third-round draft pick. However, that price is liable to go up as the start of the regular season draws closer, particularly if another team ends up needing a quarterback and a market with multiple bidders develops for Garoppolo.

“The Niners could probably get at least a third-round pick from a team like the Browns, but the longer they hold [Garoppolo], the price could go way up,” the exec said. “Imagine if a team loses their starter between now and Week 1.”

“The longer San Francisco holds him, the better they’ll do, in any trade.”

The Browns own the rights to their second-round selection in 2023 but don’t currently have a first-round pick in next year’s draft, as they traded it — along with a whole mess of other assets — to the Houston Texans as part of the deal to acquire Watson in March.

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