When seeing that the Browns would give quarterback Deshaun Watson a five-year, $230 million fully-guaranteed contract, my first thought was that the guarantees mean nothing if/when Watson is suspended over the allegations made against him last year. All teams use language voiding guarantees if a player is suspended. Also, all teams include standard signing-bonus default language in the event the player misses games for which he has received advance compensation in the form of a signing bonus.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Watson deal carves out the current situation, insulating Watson from having the remaining guarantees void or from owing any bonus money back to the Browns.
It makes sense. The Browns are making this move knowing that Watson may well be suspended. It makes sense for any past incidents to be exempt from any potentially voided guarantees or forfeited bonus money.
Via Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, the contract also includes a $1 million salary for 2022. This dramatically reduces the impact of a suspension, if it happens in 2023.
That said, Watson likely isn’t going anywhere over the next five years, so he’ll be getting the full amount of the contract whether it’s guaranteed or not. The true significance of the move comes from the Browns’ willingness to place so much future money into escrow, something most teams won’t do.