Browns QB Deshaun Watson Offers Bold Response to Widespread Disrespect

Deshaun Watson

Getty images Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns have undergone one of the most expensive facelifts in the NFL, but their success will boil down to one player — quarterback Deshaun Watson.

If a Browns fan were to go by recent projections of Watson’s play in 2023 and/or where those projections slot him among current starting QBs in the league, that fan would have much more about which to fret than to fantasize.

Mary Kay Cabot of on Friday, July 14, chronicled the laundry list of national media outlets that have ranked Watson near the bottom of the heap heading into the upcoming campaign. The perpetrators include, which rated Watson 28th out of 32 NFL starters, and Pro Football Network, which slotted Watson as the 26th-best signal caller to start the season.

Watson addressed that disrespect when speaking to media members at the Cleveland Browns Foundation Golf event in June.

“I’m very motivated. I’m very excited to be able to have the opportunities to go out there and prove what I have before, and [be] even better,” Watson told reporters, per Cabot. “And that’s the goal — to be better than when people last saw me.”

Browns QB Deshaun Watson Considers Doubt Over His Play Motivation

Deshaun Watson

GettyQuarterback Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns has inspired doubters across the national landscape.

While Watson has often been defiant in the face of people who have doubted or questioned his play on the field or his behavior off of it, he willingly accepted the cynicism of the so-called NFL experts who are hesitant to believe that he can return to the Pro-Bowl form he attained across three consecutive years between 2018-20.

“I missed two years of football,” Watson continued. “So if I was in their shoes, I wouldn’t put myself in that [high of a] position either. I got to go out there and prove it, and that’s what I’m looking forward to. So those opportunities for me this upcoming season, I have to take advantage of it.”

Some other rankings have offered Watson a bit more respect, including one from Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports who slotted the Browns QB as the 13th-best in the league heading into this season. Pro Football Focus (PFF) rated Watson the highest of any outlet Cabot mentioned, ranking him at 10th. However, PFF noted that projecting Watson’s performance in 2023 is wildly difficult.

“Maybe the hardest player to rank on the list, Watson has one of the widest ranges of outcomes in the NFL,” Sam Monson wrote on May 23. “He finished 2022 with just a 55.3 overall PFF grade after returning from suspension and didn’t noticeably improve as one does if they are just shaking off the rust. In his last full season with [the Houston Texans] (2020), he earned a 92.5 PFF grade and was one of the best quarterbacks in the game. I have no earthly idea how good Watson will be in 2023, and neither does anybody else.”

Browns Have Added Significant Talent Around QB Deshaun Watson

GettyQuarterback Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns has the weight of the franchise on his shoulders this season.

While Watson will carry the weight of the team’s success or failure on his shoulders, Cleveland has invested meaningfully in adding talent around the quarterback.

The Browns traded for wide receiver Elijah Moore, signed wideout Marquise Goodwin and drafted pass-catcher Cedric Tillman this offseason — all of whom will join No. 1 option Amari Cooper on the roster.

The franchise also has four-time Pro-Bowl running back Nick Chubb under contract for the next two seasons and extended tight end David Njoku on a four-year, $55 million deal in May 2022 — just a couple of months after inking Watson to a five-year contract worth a fully-guaranteed $230 million.

That outlandish deal for Watson — which will pay record guarantees to a quarterback who ultimately didn’t take a snap for 700 days and sat out the first 11 games of his initial campaign in Cleveland — has yet to curtail the franchise’s spending in a meaningful way. However, at some point, it will.

Cooper could be the first major offensive casualty of Watson’s price tag, as footing his nearly $23.8 million salary cap number in 2024 may prove untenable for the Browns. Cleveland also parted ways with safety John Johnson III this offseason, who is widely regarded as a starting-caliber defensive back. The team made the move in the interest of saving $9.75 million against its 2023 salary cap number.

Maybe the Browns would have parted ways with Johnson regardless. But the larger point is that beyond being holding the keys to the offense at the most important position in game, Watson also carries extra pressure as the team’s highest-paid player who will inevitably cost the roster weapons on each side of the ball over the next four years because of his onerous contract.

If Watson plays well in 2023 and delivers postseason success to Cleveland this year and beyond, history will remember him as one of the franchise’s biggest gambles who paid off in a big way. If he doesn’t, Watson will be a contractual bust on par with some of the worst moves ever made in NFL history.

Game on.

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