Deshaun Watson reportedly chose the Cleveland Browns on Friday, one day after informing the franchise it was out of the sweepstakes for his services and more than one year after the quarterback first requested a trade from the Houston Texans.
So, what led to the change of heart? Money, probably.
Not only is Cleveland reportedly trading three first-round draft picks and a third-round pick to Houston as part of the blockbuster. The Browns also reportedly are giving Watson a massive contract, which theoretically could explain his sudden willingness to waive his no-trade clause for Cleveland.
NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported the Browns are giving Watson a five-year, $230 million deal that’s full guaranteed. According to Rapoport, that’s $80 million more than the previous record for fully guaranteed money at signing.
Aaron Rodgers signed a contract extension with the Green Bay Packers earlier this offseason that includes about $150 million in guaranteed money. Watson’s new deal blows that out of the water, as ESPN’s Jake Trotter pointed out Friday.
As ESPN’s Adam Schefter notes, the $184 million that Watson will earn over the first four years of his new contract also is a $48 million raise over the $136 million he was slated to make over the same four years on his previous contract with the Texans. That equates to a raise of $12 million per year.
Watson, drafted 12th overall in 2017, didn’t play a single game for the Texans during the 2021 season despite remaining on the active roster. The three-time Pro Bowl selection threw for an NFL-high 4,823 yards with 33 touchdowns to seven interceptions in 2020.
The Texans evidently stood firm in their trade demands, despite plenty of uncertainty as Watson faced allegations from 22 different women who claimed he sexually harassed and assaulted them during massages. A grand jury last week declined to indict Watson. He won’t face criminal charges but still faces civil suits, and it’s unclear whether the league ultimately will hand down any discipline.
Nevertheless, this ends an extremely long saga involving one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. And the resolution is absolutely stunning, on many levels.