Browns QB Deshaun Watson Projected for Breakout Season in 2024

Getty Quarterback Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns have waited two years for Deshaun Watson to become the quarterback they mortgaged their future to acquire, and 2024 might finally be the season he puts it all together.

Watson missed all but six games in 2022 due to an NFL suspension, then missed all but six games last year due to injuries. Mike Clay of ESPN recently put together projections for skill players across all 32 teams in the league, and his sense is that Watson will finally stay on the field for the majority of the season, which will lead to something of a return to his Pro Bowl form of 2020.

Clay predicts that Watson will amass 3,741 yards through the air for 21 TDs and 11 INTs, per USA Today’s Browns Wire. He also estimates the QB will rush the football for 377 yards and 3 scores.

Deshaun Watson Must Be More Efficient for Browns, Not Just More Available

The Browns cannot afford for Deshaun Watson to have another rough season.

GettyCleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson.

While those don’t read like Pro Bowl numbers, they are certainly massive jumps from Watson’s past two campaigns in Cleveland.

He produced just 2,217 passing yards, 14 TDs and 9 INTs over the 12 games he’s started for the Browns, earning a record of 8-4, the majority of the credit for which belongs to Cleveland’s elite defense in 2023. Watson also ran the ball 62 times for 317 yards and 2 scores over that two-year span.

Perhaps more important than his overall production, though, will be how efficiently Watson can lead the offense. He has completed just 59.8% of his passes with the Browns for an average of 6.5 yards per attempt.

If Cleveland is going to keep pace with the likes of the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North Division next season, Watson will need to press the ball down the field more frequently and be more accurate on passes to all levels than he has been previously.

Jameis Winston in Wait Should Deshaun Watson Struggle Again

Jameis Winston will have to start and win some games with the Browns to hit the incentives in his contract.

GettyQuarterback Jameis Winston of the Cleveland Browns.

Watson is entering the third season of a five-year contract worth $230 million, all of which is fully guaranteed. His salary cap hit in 2024 is $63.8 million and will be $64 million in each of the following two years unless the Browns push some of the bill off further down the line.

There is truly no other way to categorize Watson’s deal since he signed it other than to call it an albatross around Cleveland’s proverbial neck. Despite that disadvantage, however, the Browns were still able to earn a spot in the playoffs last season as the AFC’s top Wildcard team.

With most of the No. 1-ranked defense returning, Cleveland figures to have a solid chance to get back to the postseason if it can finally get something close to its money’s worth out of the so-called franchise quarterback.

Although team brass has not made any specific comments of this nature, the 2024 campaign feels like a make-or-break one for Watson. The Browns brought in former No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston as a backup, then added former Ravens Pro Bowler Tyler Huntley to the QB room as well.

All that is to say that Cleveland has viable options to whom it can turn should Watson find himself sidelined again, either due to bad health, poor play or unacceptable off-field behavior. In any of the three scenarios, it feels unlikely that the Browns will afford the QB too much rope considering all the money they’ve sunk into him and all the time they’ve already given him to find success.

Read More