Browns Predicted to Challenge Deshaun Watson With Old Starting QB in ‘Bold Move’

Deshaun Watson

Getty Images Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns may not need Deshaun Watson to be great for the team to succeed in 2024. In fact, they may not need Watson to be anything at all.

Two quarterbacks not named Watson have each had a better run with the franchise over the last two years, respectively — Jacoby Brissett in 2022 and Joe Flacco in 2023. On Friday, February 23, Aaron Schatz of ESPN suggested a “bold move,” in which Cleveland signs one — if not both — to compete for the starting job with Watson this offseason.

In 2022, Brissett had a 62.0 QBR while Watson had 40.4 QBR. Then last season, [Flacco] had 48.3 QBR while Watson was below him at 42.9 QBR.

The Browns need to bring in competition and a backup plan in case Watson starts off 2024 playing subpar football again.

Flacco has expressed a desire to continue his career despite his age (39), and Browns fans would be happy to see him back. Brissett’s 2022 numbers stand out when we look at his career, but the Browns might as well sign him to a cheaper deal and see if they can make the magic happen again. Any of these options would at least protect the Browns and keep them from wasting another strong defense with bad play from Watson.

Browns Remain Committed to Deshaun Watson as Starter in 2024

Deshaun Watson will serve as the starter but the Cleveland Browns plan to carry three quarterbacks next season.

GettyQuarterback Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns. 

Despite Flacco’s late-season heroics, in which he led the team to a 4-1 record on the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs by averaging well over 300 passing yards per contest, head coach Kevin Stefanski was quick to name Watson the team’s starter heading into the offseason.

“He’s doing great in his rehab,” Stefanski said of Watson on January 14 following the Browns’ loss to the Houston Texans over Super Wildcard Weekend. “I’m confident he’ll be ready to roll.”

Watson underwent season-ending surgery to repair his throwing shoulder in November 2023. Mary Kay Cabot of reported earlier this week that the quarterback is on the cusp of a major milestone in his rehabilitation.

“[Watson] will begin throwing soon, a league source told,” Cabot wrote on February 19. “Watson, who only had the fractured glenoid bone repaired and not his strained rotator cuff … returned to the UCLA weight room this week, which is a big step in his comeback bid.”

Browns Can’t Afford to Waste Another Year of Elite Defense on Deshaun Watson’s Struggles

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was not sharp against the Arizona Cardinals.

GettyCleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Part of Watson’s problem over his two years in Cleveland has been simple availability. He missed 11 games in 2022 due to an NFL suspension and missed 11 contests again last season due to injury.

But even when Watson has been on the field, he hasn’t been particularly good. He produced a QBR above 62 only once in six starts last year, while taking 17 sacks and throwing just 7 TD passes against 4 INTs. Watson completed less than 59% of his passes in four of those six games, per ESPN.

The Browns defense, despite getting routed by the Texans during the playoffs, was the top-rated unit in the NFL in 2023 based on average yardage surrendered per game (270.2 yards).

The defense deserves a considerable amount of the credit for Watson’s 5-1 mark as a starter in 2023 and is precisely the reason Schatz is advocating for a big move at QB in Cleveland this offseason — even if that means drafting another signal-caller in the middle rounds this April.

“Any of these options would at least protect the Browns and keep them from wasting another strong defense with bad play from Watson,” Schatz wrote.

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