The Cleveland Browns believe they have their franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson, although he's spent more time off the field in a Browns uniform than on it. From suspension to now Watson will have missed a total of 22 of 34 games once the regular season comes to a conclusion.
Keep in mind the Browns paid Watson $230 million in fully guaranteed money, as Watson carries a $63.977 million cap hit over the next three years. Cleveland can't even get out of the deal until 2027, as the Browns would pay a $136.9 million cap penalty in 2024 or a $73 million cap penalty in 2025 by releasing him.
Basically, Cleveland is stuck with Watson's contract. Which brings us back to the controversial deal that sent Watson to Cleveland in the first place. The Browns acquired Watson from the Houston Texans in exchange for first-round picks in 2022, 2023 and 2024, along with a 2023 third-round pick and 2024 fourth-round pick. The Texans also sent the Browns a 2024 fifth-round pick.
Based on Watson's performance and injury history, the Browns made a bad trade. What the Texans got in return only makes the deal that much worse for Cleveland.
What the Texans received
- 2022 first-round pick: G Kenyon Green (via trade)
- 2023 first-round pick: DE Will Anderson Jr. (via trade)
- 2024 first-round pick: TBD
- 2023 third-round pick: WR Tank Dell (via trade)
- 2024 fifth-round pick: TBD
The Texans used some creative maneuvering of draft picks to get three lynchpins for their franchise thanks to having extra first-round picks as part of the Watson deal. Houston selected Green after originally having the No. 13 pick from Cleveland, but the Texans traded down two spots with the Philadelphia Eagles and selected Green at No. 15 overall. The Texans also received the 124th, 162nd and 166th overall selections from the Eagles, which they actually used in a series of other deals to land wide receiver John Metchie III (second round), linebacker Christian Harris (third round), running back Dameon Pierce (fourth round) and Thomas Booker (fifth round).
With the 2023 first-round pick, the Texans traded up with the Arizona Cardinals to draft Anderson -- right after they selected C.J. Stroud with their own pick at No. 2 overall. Houston also ended up receiving Arizona's fourth-round pick, but traded it to Philadelphia for a 2024 third-round pick.
Houston traded up four spots to land Dell at the No. 69 pick from the Los Angeles Rams, getting a key wideout for Stroud in the process. The Texans also exchanged sixth-round picks and used that pick to acquire two seventh-round picks. One of the seventh-round picks they used to select safety Brandon Hill. Houston used the other seventh-round pick to trade back up into the sixth round and select wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson.
Here are the players the Texans landed in the Watson deal after their draft trades so far:
- Kenyon Green
- John Metchie III
- Christian Harris
- Dameon Pierce
- Thomas Booker
- Will Anderson
- Tank Dell
- Brandon Hill
- Xavier Hutchinson
- 2024 first-round pick
- 2024 third-round pick
What the Browns received
- Deshaun Watson
- 2024 fifth-round pick: TBD
The Browns traded a lot to get Watson, and they just haven't gotten the performance for what they gave up to acquire him. Watson is 8-4 in his 12 starts with the Browns, but he has completed 59.8% of his passes for 2,217 yards and 14 touchdowns to nine interceptions (81.7 rating). Watson has averaged just 184.8 pass yards a game with the Browns.
Of the 44 quarterbacks with 200-plus pass attempts over the past two seasons, Watson is 37th in passer rating (right above Carson Wentz). Watson is 41st in completion rate, 34th in touchdown passes, 14th in interception percentage (2.6), and 37th in yards per attempt (6.5).
That's a lot of money tied to a quarterback who's at the bottom of the league in many statistical categories. The Browns have a very good roster, but just aren't getting what they paid for with Watson -- even if his shoulder injury could derail their season.
If the Browns get this type of production from Dorian Thompson-Robinson and win games, this could be a major problem going forward. Watson is still the quarterback, but he's at replacement level.
Cleveland paid a lot to get Watson -- and is not getting the bang for its buck.