Deshaun Watson’s new deal becomes a potential game changer for guaranteed money

NFL: DEC 02 Browns at Texans
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For years, veteran players have been pushing for fully-guaranteed contracts. For years, NFL teams have resisted.

Finally, a team caved. The Browns fully guaranteed quarterback Deshaun Watson‘s five-year, $230 million deal. Every penny of it.

The Browns had to do it in order to get the player they coveted. Dropped by Watson as he trimmed his list of finalists from four to three, the Browns had to make Watson an offer he couldn’t and wouldn’t refuse. That offer included fully guaranteeing all five years of a contract worth $46 million per year.

For most veteran players, fully guaranteed contracts would mean shorter deals with less fluff. For example, the Bills wouldn’t have signed Von Miller to a six-year, $120 million contract if the full amount of the contract was guaranteed. For veteran quarterbacks — specifically, proven franchise quarterbacks — it doesn’t matter whether the contract is or isn’t guaranteed. The team isn’t going to cut the franchise quarterback before the contract expires (unless he really wasn’t a franchise quarterback and the team figured it out too late . . . e.g., Jared Goff).

A separate issue — one that could result in a less welcoming reception at the league meetings next week for owner Jimmy Haslam — arises from Cleveland dramatically breaking ranks with the collective resistance to fully guaranteeing contracts multiple years into the future. Some teams have fully guaranteed veteran contracts in the third year. No one has fully guaranteed significant salaries five years into the future.

As it relates to Watson’s contract, it means that the Browns will be required, per a source with knowledge of the formula and policy, to place $169 million into escrow as of March 31, 2023. As the source explained it, the league takes a snapshot of all fully guaranteed salaries on January 31 of each year. Any fully guaranteed payments not made by March 31 must be placed in escrow, up to 75 percent of the total contract value. Also, each team has a $15 million annual allowance. Under the terms of Watson’s current deal, it works out to a major chunk of cash that Haslam must set aside next year.

The willingness of the Browns to fully guarantee five years of income for Watson puts other teams who will be signing franchise quarterbacks to long-term deals in a position to be pressured to do the same. Now that one team has done it, others will be expected to do it, too.

Ultimately, it comes down to leverage. Watson had plenty of it, enough to get the Browns to be willing to do whatever they had to do to get Watson to choose to play for them. The device likely won’t become commonplace for quarterback contracts. Instead, it will be deployed only when the leverage commands it.

So who’s next? Probably Russell Wilson, when he signs his next contract no later than April 2023. Given everything the Broncos gave up to get him, they’ll basically be handing him a blank check. And if he asks for the funds to be not only sufficient but also guaranteed, the Broncos quite possibly will do it.

10 responses to “Deshaun Watson’s new deal becomes a potential game changer for guaranteed money

  1. I hope this doesnt turn into the MLB where law breakers and PED users get off with paid suspensions.

  2. There isn’t another team in the league that would fully guarantee a QB contract, not one with at least two working brain cells anyhow!

  3. Denial is not just a river in Africa and the Cleveland Browns are going to find that out in spades once the levy breaks on this amazingly idiotic trade and the draft capital given up/guaranteed $$ given to Watson for another Mayfield type season.

    The AFC is a meat grinder now, the Browns won’t be getting to the promised land anytime soon.

  4. Teams wont feel pressure to do it when it blows up in the Browns face. This is coming from a browns fan, well maybe former browns fan

  5. Way too risky to guarantee that kind of money. Only the idiocy that is the browns would do something like that. I doubt any other owners would do this. Honestly, I doubt the bottom third team would even have that kind of money available to be put into escrow.

  6. Guaranteed money is going to become the norm now…just wait till lamar Jackson holds out. As far as watson goes I think hes worth the money hes a franchise qb I thought he was a good kid coming out of clemson you know I’m a strong believer in innocent untill proven guilty and we are letting the court thing play out but untill hes proven guilty I’m going to continue giving him the benefit of the doubt I dont care if I stand alone in this

  7. Jimmy Haslem is worth $4B. This is roughly 5% of his net worth. The average American at his age is worth about $300k and this contract is equivalent to a 70 year old buying a $15,000 car, spreading the payment out over 5 years and owing $7500 in year two. This is a drop in the bucket for the rest of us. Deshauns character aside, it’s not the worst thing for these guys to actually pay a bit to the workers that make the owners richer.

  8. No other team over rules it’s GM and listens to a homeless guy about their draft.
    ( Or if they did would ever say it out loud )
    Haslam and the Browns are special, no team will follow their lead.

  9. I, for one, am glad to see the Browns back to doing dumb Browns things. This entire thing has the makings of an epic crash and burn. But hey, they’ll sell jerseys.

  10. Lamar’s actually looking smart for holding out. QB max deals go up like $20mil every year… wait two more years and he’ll make 40,000,000 more dollars

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