Browns Insider Says Team Won’t Make Exception if Deshaun Watson Struggles

Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson won't have a long leash next season if he struggles.

Getty Images Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson won't have a long leash next season if he struggles.

The Cleveland Browns are banking on Deshaun Watson looking like a franchise quarterback next season. If he doesn’t, a prominent insider believes the team will not hesitate to change course.

Watson hasn’t lived up to expectations so far in Cleveland following a blockbuster 2022 trade. The Browns gave up a trio of first-round picks and also handed Watson a $230 million fully guaranteed contract. So far, Watson has appeared in 12 games, passing for 2,217 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions.

Watson has had his moments, but the majority of his time with the Browns has been underwhelming. If he struggles in his return from season-ending shoulder surgery, the Browns will consider other options, per insider Mary Kay Cabot.

For context, Cabot was responding to a listener who asked, “How long of a leash will [the Browns] give Deshaun Watson before they simply admit this didn’t work out?”

She noted that the Browns “do not foresee a problem with Deshaun Watson at all, from a health standpoint or a performance standpoint.” But Watson won’t be an exception if he does struggle.

“The Browns have the bar set high for this season, regardless of who the quarterback is,” Cabot said on the April 30 edition of the Orange and Brown Talk podcast, beginning at the 14:45 mark. “Last year, the ship kept sailing along, even after Deshaun Watson suffered the fractured shoulder. They got Joe Flacco to come in here and get them to the playoffs.

“If for some reason Deshaun Watson isn’t the quarterback they expect him to be, if he’s not that guy, then they will try Jameis Winston and turn it over to him. Because the bottom line is they’re trying to win games. They’re not going to let down the rest of the football team to have a long leash on someone.”

Cabot: Browns Won’t Get Hung Up on Deshaun Watson Investment

The Browns are very much all in on Watson in a financial sense. His cap hit of $63.7 million is the highest in the league next season. But Cabot believes the team’s commitment to winning goes beyond what they’re doling out to Watson.

“The bar is set at winning games, throwing touchdowns, avoiding interceptions, and keeping this team in the playoff hunt. If he’s not doing that, he’ll be treated like anybody else,” Cabot said. “They’re not going to sacrifice this season just in the name of, ‘Oh, we spent three first-round picks on this guy and $230 million.’ That’s not how it’s going to go. They’ll do whatever it takes to win games. And whichever quarterback gives them the best chance to do that is who is going to be playing.”

The Browns’ next option on the depth chart is Jameis Winston. The former top pick was signed this offseason to be Watson’s backup. If Watson does struggle, Cleveland’s hope would be that Winston could step in as Joe Flacco did last season and steady the ship. However, Winston doesn’t have a reputation for taking care of the ball, with 99 career interceptions in 80 starts.

Browns Don’t Expect Deshaun Watson to Struggle

After laying out a potential worst-case scenario, Cabot did make it clear that Cleveland expects Watson to be solid next season.

“They feel 100% that he is poised and ready to go out there and have an excellent season,” Cabot said.

Browns general Andrew Berry has said as much when talking about Watson and his future with the franchise.

“[We] do feel really good about him, happy with the progress that he’s made within our organization, both on the field and off the field,” Berry said in January. “And we’re looking forward to getting him back next year. We think he’s going to have a really big year and have a ton of confidence in him as our starting quarterback.”

The Browns are optimistic but have to be realistic about their expectations. Watson is coming off serious shoulder surgery and hasn’t played more than six games in a season since 2020. Ideally, he’ll bounce back and look like a Pro Bowler once again. But the team appears prepared if that’s not the case.

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