The Cleveland Browns have their new franchise quarterback, but it required a stunning change of heart from Deshaun Watson.
As the Watson sweepstakes were winding down, the superstar signal-caller appeared to have narrowed his search down to two teams: the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints. But after initially squashing Cleveland’s bid for his services, Watson put the Browns back in the running and greenlit a trade from Houston to Northeast Ohio.
So, what caused Watson to change his mind? According to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, the 26-year-old’s initial reluctance to take his talents to Cleveland had nothing to do with football.
“Watson was uneasy about going north to Cleveland, and casting his lot in a cold-weather city after playing high school football in Georgia, college football in South Carolina and pro football in Texas,” Breer wrote in his latest Monday Morning Quarterback column. “So on Wednesday, Watson personally called Berry and explained to him why he was eliminating the Browns. Berry wished Watson well, and then called Mulugheta and told him he’d stay in touch and that he’d still be interested if Watson, for some reason, changed his mind.”
Breer also shed light on what appealed about the Browns to Watson and motivated him to start his next chapter in Cleveland.
“But more than anything else, when it came back to being a football decision for Watson, it was the roster that separated Cleveland,” Breer wrote. “He not only saw the Browns as talented, he loved how young they were in key spots. The line, he figured, would be the best he’d ever played behind. The backs were as good as any in football, and there was depth at tight end, too. Amari Cooper was coming in. The defense had Myles Garrett and a loaded secondary. And so many of these guys stood to get better and stay in Cleveland for a long time to come.”
With Watson now aboard, the Browns are the odds-on favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook to win the AFC North in 2022. Cleveland’s mark (+175) is a shade shorter than the defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals (+200).