Inside the Deshaun Watson deal

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The Browns were out of the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes until they dug extra deep in the couch cushions of Jimmy Haslam’s Cleveland steamship.

So how much money will they be paying Watson? We’ve gotten our eyes on the details, per a source with knowledge of the contract.

Here’s the breakdown, which is as simple as it gets:

1. Signing bonus: $44.965 million, fully guaranteed.

2. 2022 base salary: $1.035 million, fully guaranteed.

3. 2023 base salary: $46 million, fully guaranteed.

4. 2024 base salary: $46 million, fully guaranteed.

5. 2025 base salary: $46 million, fully guaranteed.

6. 2026 base salary: $46 million, fully guaranteed.

Rarely if ever has a deal looked so clear and clean. No games, no fluff. He gets $46 million each and every year. Each year, the relative impact on the cap will shrink, because the total spending limit will keep going up and up and up.

As previously reported, there’s no signing bonus forfeiture or voiding of future guarantees based on the existing allegations against Watson. If he’s suspended by the league, the guarantees remain.

And the current structure minimizes the financial impact of a suspension, given that he’d lose only $60,882 for each game missed. If, for some reason, a suspension doesn’t happen until 2024, the Browns surely would convert most of the $46 million to a guarantee, dropping the salary to the minimum and once again minimizing the cost of a suspension.

It seems like a too-convenient loophole, but plenty of players and teams have done it in the past. The league presumably could impose a separate fine aimed at reversing the impact of the obvious manipulation of the consequences of a suspension.

49 responses to “Inside the Deshaun Watson deal

  1. Wow. Watson is the first NFL player to get the equivalent of “tenure”. He’s set for life regardless of how he plays.

  2. Under the circumstances as reported, it will be interesting to see what the Browns can get for Mayfield. There’s a gun to Cleveland’s head; he has to go.

  3. 1. sign a big contract, get a fat signing bonus

    2. next year complain its not enough.

    3. act in a deplorable way, sit out, earn full pay

    4. Get traded and get a bigger contract!

    Deshaun Watson is a hell of a business man.
    And to think what he did was bad?

    I just learned a valuable lesson.

  4. To be fair, the monetary value shouldn’t play into a suspension. I’m not a Watson fan, but the position of the player shouldn’t be dictated by the punishment. If NFL want to fine him for his actions it’s one thing, but level of monetary punishment shouldn’t be dictated by how much someone makes. If a running back does the same violation, he should be punished just as much as a QB, corner or lineman and vise versa. Doesn’t make sense to suspend and essentially fine someone $23M (like a Watson, if NFL suspend him for 8 games), but if the same deed is done by a running back, might be fine $1M (if he has a $2M base).

  5. The Browns must be convinced Watson is going to have a hall of fame career in Cleveland for them to give him this contract.

  6. So his cap hit is approximately $10mm this year and $55mm each of the next 4 years. Of course they will convert next years salary into a bonus and kick the keg down the road.

  7. Browns fans are actually still rooting for their team with this guy as their qb?

  8. I’m sure giving the riskiest player in the league the most certain huge money contract in NFL history will work out well.

  9. The league looks the other way at guys like Deshaun and Tyreek and makes Josh Gordon an outcast. Goodell must go.

  10. The best part of this hubris move is the idea they immediately sink into a cap hell like all these other AFC teams playing with fire.

    Cooper already restructured, ofher guys need to be paid and they can’t even get Landry with the money he wants.

    Good thing Cleveland has a completely inexperienced 34 year old GM.

  11. Suck with Deshaun is all they paid for…
    I’d rank Browns still 3rd in their division…
    They will be ridiculed for this every losing season for years!

  12. Watson is getting 80M more guaranteed than the next highest contract. He isnt even a top 5 QB.

  13. With Watson expected to be suspended anywhere from 4 games to a full season and sitting out 17 regular season games last year, he will return as a rusty player. The $1 million salary in 2022 could really piss off Goodall, who may suspend Watson even longer, thinking Watson is playing the NFL.

    Look for the Browns to finish in last place of the AFC North in 2022. And then the salary cap hits for the remaining seasons of his contract. Watson will also be asking for a new contract and/or a trade in 2025, not wanting to risk injury playing with just 2 years left on his contract. The Browns are in cap hell with just a $1 million salary in 2022, and with no 1st round draft picks in 2022, 2023, and 2024, it will only get worse!

    Watson will not be playing half his games inside, instead he will play half his games outside on the banks of the lake, and three more away games, all outside, within the division. Watson’s record against the AFC North is horrible!

    The Texans with Davis Mills will make the playoffs, before the Browns will make the playoffs with Watson!

    Thanks Cleveland!

    From a Texans Fan!

  14. dude pulls a hammy and you have to pay that check – for 5 YEARS. crazy clown time.

  15. One thing you gotta remember about Cleveland — this is the team that drafted Johnny Manziel, because some homeless guy told Jimmy Haslem Manziel was the “real deal.”

    “Read deal” indeed.

    The Browns do not always make the best decisions.

  16. His only big concern is Mitchell Trubiski, because there are no other qbs of note in that division..

  17. Watson is the most prominent to get “tenure,” and the most lucrative tenure, but he’s not exactly the first. Kirk Cousins’ first Vikings contract was fully guaranteed too, something like three years, 85 million. That was set-for-several-lifetimes status too.

    Granted Watson is set for like several dozen life times. He and his prodigy can get all the butt massages they want.

  18. If you watched the last couple Browns games it was obvious that Baker was play8mg hurt and all Stefanski had to do was keep running the football. And they would have made the playoffs. They are mortgaging their future for Watson, so they must feel like they are a Super Bowl contender.

  19. This team really screwed Mayfield over. Whenever he returns to Cleveland as the QB for X team, it will be much watch TV.

  20. Sometimes you have to take the blinders off and deal with reality. Watson has done absolutely nothing,if he had they would have nailed him to the wood a longtime ago,so if you think he’s guilty go right on ahead. For you Browns fans who still love your team,you just go a stud football player,you have to shoot him just to get him off the field.There was a game against Dallas where they took his ribs out he missed 1 series and came back and the Texans won the game.2 weeks later he had to ride a bus 16 hours from Houston to Jacksonville because the team wouldn’t put him on a plane,he played pretty darn well with those cracked ribs he wound up finishing the season with and he never missed a game. I saw him play here in Houston the cat can play,and he has a cannon of an arm,he can throw it 65 to70yards if need be. Your team had gotten that much better with what you already have in place. Good luck to you and your team.

  21. Great insight about NFL contracts. I live the new book Playmakers. Plenty of insights in there as well.

  22. Everyone but the most delusion Browns fans sees the Watson deal as a bad one. When this blows up in their face they will have no cap room and be handcuffed in the draft for years. Back to the cellar of the AFC North!

  23. The salary cap is not guaranteed to increase every year. Prove it to me and I’ll change my mind.

  24. So Haslem is paying this guy 46 million a year because he pissed Baker Mayfield off and felt like he had to save face. Watson has already proven he is willing to sit and be paid. Haslem and the Browns front Office make Snyder and the Commanders look like a rocket scientist. Gave up three 1st rounders too boot. Worst trade since Herschel Walker.

  25. In 21 the Browns averaged 8 receptions per game to the WRs. That’s nothing. Teams were not afraid of the passing game. Legal and moral issues aside, they were determined to address the QB situation. The running game is fine, now they have a passing game and the 22 schedule is so much easier.

  26. Kudos to the Browns for coming up with this simple solution to protect his earnings from a suspension. The suspension will prevent him from playing. That not only hurts him it hurts everyone in the organization. If the two parties want to still pay him that’s between them. Companies pay employees fines and financial costs of their behavior all the time.

  27. Port of the problem is that you can’t win with a bad QB.
    The Browns have drafted Couch, Quinn, Weeden, Menziel, and Mayfield with barely a whiff of success.
    Morality aside, sometimes you just can’t afford a Ferrarri unless you buy it used with some dings in it.
    The Vikings drafted Ponder, Bridgewater, traded a 1and 4 for Bradford, and are sucking with Cousins.
    Throwing deep on 4th and 1 has risks, but greater rewards.
    I hope I see a Browns, Lions, and Vikings super bowl win sometime soon.

  28. Russell Wilson must be drooling over this contract. Meanwhile the Broncos are saying “Oh my! What did we get ourselves into?”

  29. At the end of the day no criminal charges were filed against him. Another case of he said, she said, with no real proof of anything.

  30. No team, not even the hapless Browns, would ever make a deal like this without first getting a wink and a nod from Goodell regarding potential suspension.

  31. How many wins did Watson have the last time he played over a year ago? 25% of your salary cap for a 53-man roster tied up in one player who hasn’t played in over year, that has 22 civil cases pending against him, and the last time he played a full season got his team to a whopping four wins.

  32. Watson is a serial sexual assaulter, and Haslam is a disgrace for signing him. Cleveland used to be the gritty, likeable losers by the lake – not any more. The fact that a grand jury did not indict him merely reflects that the D.A. didn’t think the evidence was enough to convict Watson beyond a reasonable doubt – not that he is innocent. “He said, she said” cases are difficult to prove.

  33. The Browns over paid for him. No player is worth three #1 picks and two mid round picks. He will also cost the Browns a couple of free agents every year for the next five years because he eats up 25% of their salary cap. Way too much.

  34. trentbateman says:
    March 20, 2022 at 1:01 pm
    Browns fans are actually still rooting for their team with this guy as their qb?


    The same way KC fans root for their team and Steelers fans rooted for their team with Ben at QB

  35. Ravens fans chanted “No means no” at Ben Rothlesberger. Wonder if they’ll do it again.

  36. This is going to turn the Browns back into the Factory of Sadness. They were right there, and they blew it by giving this clown ALL THE MONEY

  37. Mike Florio and C Simms said “dysfunctional organizations do dysfunctional things”.
    I agree.

  38. Why does it feel like everyone was onboard with Atlanta and New Orleans vying for Watson’s services but as soon as he chose the Browns the coverage got much more negative?

  39. OK I can see one thing coming out of this. The smart teams are going to double their search for and grooming of up and coming QB’s. This will manifest itself in the Drafting of a QB in the first three rounds every year. This will be strictly to keep the costs at a level which will allow good players to be paid across the entire team. Getting more Draft picks will be essential and may require the trading of good QB’s on a rotating basis. The long term high $$ contract may soon be a thing of the past or a at east a rarity with short term fully Guaranteed contracts with Trade allowances to make up for the shorter terms in Case a team just cannot stretch their cap. Having lots of Draft picks in the first four rounds is getting to be critical to having a constantly competitive team.

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