The Cleveland Browns fully-guaranteed $200+ million contract for Deshaun Watson was met with shock around the NFL from league executives.
Cleveland gave Watson a loaded contract, all of which was guaranteed despite the 20-plus sexual misconduct allegations against him. It was a questionable — and to many offensive — decision from the Haslam family.
Trading for a man with that checkered of a past is one thing. Giving him as much money as they did, without said civil cases being resolved, is another. Reports suggest the Browns did not reach out to the alleged victims or their lawyer before trading for Watson, either.
All in all, there likely was no proper way to handle such a delicate situation. But the Browns found a way to make matters far worse than they had to.
Per NFL insider Peter King, NFL executives were shocked by the contract the Browns were willing to hand Watson after the fact.
Considering how close Watson was to choosing his hometown Atlanta Falcons, it’s fair to wonder if the guaranteed contract was a sticking point that helped bring the embattled quarterback to Cleveland.
Browns: Deshaun Watson awaits suspension, judgement
Watson could receive a suspension of six games or more from the NFL regardless of how his civil suits are resolved. Because of this, the first year of his contract contains just a $1 million cap hit. Cleveland, and Watson, know severe punishment is coming from the league at some point.
As for the court of public opinion, Watson and the Browns should never escape how they blatantly made light of sexual misconduct allegations all in favor of on-field product. Watson has proven he’s a Pro Bowl-level quarterback when able, yes. But his off-field concerns are worrisome enough — in most professions — to warrant removal entirely.
The NFL evidently does not hold Watson to nearly the same standard.