Browns Trade Proposal Nets Team $27 Million QB to Replace Watson

Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns

Getty Deshaun Watson #4 of the Cleveland Browns looks on during Cleveland Browns training camp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus on July 27, 2022 in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

After months of uncertainty, the Cleveland Browns and their newly-acquired quarterback Deshaun Watson can finally see a clear path forward.

Independent arbiter and former federal judge Sue L. Robinson on Monday handed down a six-game suspension for Watson after she ruled he had violated the NFL’s player conduct policy on multiple occasions. The punishment is tied to 24 civil suits filed by women against the QB alleging sexual misconduct ranging from harassment to assault.

The league still retains the option to appeal the ruling, which fell short of the year-long suspension the NFL said it was seeking for Watson. But should the number stand at six games, the Browns have an interesting decision to make — who to start under center while Watson is sidelined for more than a third of the regular season.

If Week 1 began this Sunday, the answer would be backup Jacoby Brissett, who Cleveland inked to a one-year deal during the offseason. Fighting for the No. 2 spot in Watson’s absence would be Josh Dobbs, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Josh Rosen, most recently of the Atlanta Falcons.

However, there is another potential option should the Browns choose to pursue it — a trade for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

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Browns Insider Floats Garoppolo as Trade Possibility in Cleveland

Jimmy Garoppolo

Getty Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during the second quarter of a game at Levi’s Stadium on October 27, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Jake Trotter of ESPN on August 1 laid out the Browns’ current situation at quarterback in the wake of the Watson suspension, floating the notion of a trade with the Niners for Garoppolo.

[Cleveland’s QB room] won’t include Baker Mayfield, who was traded to the Carolina Panthers on July 6. The Browns have been planning to have Jacoby Brissett — who has 37 career starts [with the] New England [Patriots], Indianapolis [Colts] and Miami [Dolphins] — take over as their starting quarterback during Watson’s suspension.

With Josh Dobbs as the only other quarterback on the roster, Cleveland brought in former first-round pick Josh Rosen on a one-year deal. Rosen was the No. 10 pick in the 2018 draft and has spent time with five NFL teams. He will compete with Dobbs for the backup job behind Brissett.

The Browns could also consider making a trade for Jimmy Garoppolo, who remains on the block in San Francisco, as a bridge while Watson is out.

Garoppolo Has Been Successful Starter in Regular Season, Playoffs

Jimmy Garoppolo

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

The balance of the Browns’ decision will probably come down to some combination of money, strength of schedule and where they believe they can get to in six games with Watson on the bench.

Cleveland currently leads the NFL in salary cap space with more than $48.7 million at their disposal. That means they can afford to take on the final year of Garoppolo’s $137 million contract, which carries a cap hit just shy of $27 million. The Niners are definitely looking to trade him, as team brass has indicated publicly they are transitioning to last year’s first-round draft selection Trey Lance.

Despite the level of cap space available, the Browns have had an expensive offseason due to several trade acquisitions, including Watson and former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper, and paid out on some massive contract extensions for players like cornerback Denzel Ward and tight end David Njoku.

The first question will be whether an investment in Garoppolo is necessary for the team’s desired win/loss results, considering the Browns’ schedule the first six weeks of the season includes four home games against the Steelers, Patriots, Los Angeles Chargers and New York Jets, as well as two road games against the Panthers and the Falcons?

The second question to answer, should the team’s response to the first query turn out a “yes,” is whether $27 million is too much to spend to salvage an already expensive season?

Garoppolo is unquestionably an upgrade over the Browns’ quarterbacks who are eligible to play in the first six games of the year, as he boasts a career record of 33-14 as a starter, per Pro Football Reference. Garoppolo also has a winning playoff record of 5-2 and has started two NFC Championship Games as well as one Super Bowl.

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Jim Werner Sr.
Jim Werner Sr.
10 days ago

The Browns need to really think hard on this since the NFL still has, as of now, something to say as to the length of DW’s suspension. They may need to reshuffle the QB position again.

Edward Hatzidakis
Edward Hatzidakis
10 days ago

Go get him, maybe he can salvage the season.

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