The Cleveland Browns pulled off a blockbuster trade for Deshaun Watson in March, but they had another quarterback firmly on their radar prior to making the move.
The Browns had an interest in bringing in former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who was traded to the Denver Broncos. The Browns made a pitch for Wilson, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, but he simply was not interested in playing for the Browns.
“They did make some kind of a pitch for Russell Wilson. Russell Wilson was a player they were interested in. But Russell was going to be able to dictate where he landed. I don’t know all of it, but I don’t think he had the Browns on his list as a place where he wanted to play,” Cabot said on the July 26 edition of “The Orange and Brown Talk” podcast. “He had his heart set on a few teams, and I don’t think [the Browns] were not one of them. They might have been better off trying to land or landing Russell Wilson, but I don’t think they really had that option.”
Wilson would have generated a very different response from the Browns’ fan base than Watson, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by 24 women and has settled 20 of the civil lawsuits. Watson is facing a potentially lengthy suspension and the Browns are heading into training camp with that uncertainty lurking over their season.
Both Quarterbacks Brought Back Massive Hauls in Trades
Wilson is squeaky clean — almost to a fault — but didn’t appear to see Cleveland as a viable destination as he looked for a trade from the Seahawks. The Broncos jumped at the opportunity to bring him in, sending quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant, defensive lineman Shelby Harris, two first-round picks, two second-round picks and a 2022 fifth-round to Seattle for the nine-time Pro Bowler.
The Browns shipped three first-round draft picks to the Texans in the trade for Watson, in addition to a third-round pick and a pair of fourth-round selections. Cleveland also got a sixth-round pick in return along with Watson.
The Browns also chose to give Watson a fully guaranteed $230 million contract after waiving his no-trade clause to come to Cleveland. The Browns were competing with the Panthers, Saints and Falcons for his services down the final stretch of the negotiations.
Browns Told Baker Mayfield They’d Explore Options
The Browns publicly backed Baker Mayfield as their quarterback going forward at the conclusion of a turbulent 8-9 season. However, they made it clear to the former top pick in February at the combine that they’d be looking at the top-tier options on the market, like Wilson, Aaron Rodgers or Watson, per ESPN.
The situation escalated quickly, with the Browns going all-in during their pursuit of Watson, a move that left Mayfield — who led the Browns to a historic playoff win in 2021 — feeling disrespected.
“I was told one thing and they completely did another,” Mayfield said shortly after the trade on the “YNK” podcast.
It took a while, but Mayfield now has a new home with the Carolina Panthers, where he will compete for the starting gig with Sam Darnold.