Browns have automatic right to restructure Deshaun Watson’s contract

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There’s an important reason why quarterback Deshaun Watson is reportedly open to a restructuring of his contract. He has no choice.

Per a source with knowledge of the contract, the Browns have the right to convert “any portion” of Watson’s compensation (salary, bonuses, etc.) into a signing bonus, in any year of the contract.

This year, Watson has a $46 million salary and a cap number of $54.993 million. With a minimum salary for Watson at $1.08 million, $44.92 million can be converted to a signing bonus and prorated. That would push $33.69 million to future years, and it would drop Watson’s cap number to $21.3 million.

If the Browns want to spread the amount for more than the remaining years of the deal, a renegotiation would be needed. For example, the Browns and Watson could add a voidable year.

For now, though, the Browns can create $33,69 million if the team chooses, by converting most of his 2023 salary into a signing bonus. Whether Watson wants to do it doesn’t matter. Even though every dollar of the contract is fully guaranteed, it’s always better to have the money than to not have the money.

One last point — even though the money would become a signing bonus, it’s not subject to forfeiture in the usual sense. Per the terms of the deal, any potential forfeiture of the money converted to signing bonus ends when the next regular season concludes.

21 responses to “Browns have automatic right to restructure Deshaun Watson’s contract

  1. Disgusting how the team and league bent over backwards to financially accommodate and protect Watson. It will be an ongoing shame as long as he’s in the league, which is already too long.

  2. Although many, many people care about Deshaun Watson’s behavior, the other 31 owners are only outraged about this contract. The commenters here love to talk about “cap hell” but don’t understand the cap hit if the contract is configured to signing bonuses instead of base salary. It forces the team to pay out in straight cash lump sums with no protection for injury (or other transgressions) but then you have a reasonable cap hit for a QB. Not every owner has cash to throw around like this or a desire to absorb this risk.

    I’m not saying this is a good idea for this particular player, I’m saying the 31 other billionaires didn’t find new morals or integrity for any other issue except money.

  3. Also, if they restructure his contract AFTER the tags are due today, it forces the tag price for other teams to be based on a huge base salary…further hurting the Ravens in their negotiations.

  4. This contract is the reason why you will never see NBA style guaranteed contracts in the NFL. This has to be one of the top 3 worst deals ever for a franchise, and I don’t even like Cleveland, but this is a disgusting contract

  5. kevpft says:
    March 7, 2023 at 11:49 am
    Disgusting how the team and league bent over backwards to financially accommodate and protect Watson. It will be an ongoing shame as long as he’s in the league, which is already too long.

    Careful that glass house your living in has cracks in the ceiling.

  6. Because the contract is guaranteed, all the Browns are going to accomplish is cripple themselves in future years.

  7. I commentrd several times wondering if Watson might loose his mojo after being off the field for two years. Looks pretty obvious based on last year. Now to see if he can find it again after a full camp…

  8. A restructuring like described in the article would move about $11 million of cap hit onto each of the last three years of the contract. Eventually, those massive cap hits are going to have to be reckoned with.

  9. Any way you look at it, this was a bad deal for the Browns made out of desperation. Kicking the can down the road will make matters worse in future years.

  10. While they’re at it, can they restructure Watson into a top tier Quaterback and the rest of the club into a good team?

  11. Yes, it will increase the cap hit, but the League has announced that the cap will continue to go up each year based on TV revenues, which are sure to spike when YouTubeTV gets the NFL Ticket. Again, Deshaun is not the poster boy for this deal, but it effectively paid above market rate for a top QB in year 1 but then below what will surely be market rate in years 2-5 for cap purposes.

    The deal is really smart; its the player and the team that everyone hates that make it so unpalatable.

  12. Browns, go ahead!
    Have fun with future cap hits of 75-80 mil per year.
    Better win the super bowl this year if you do that

  13. Not a surprise to anyone any sense of business acumen. It’s implicit that an Organization that are staffed with fleet of lawyers would have this in already in place before even signing the largest guaranteed contract in NFL history. Crickets from those who bashed the Browns brass for “destroying the team’s cap space” If you’re looking to see an organization that can not manage contracts, look no further than the Ravens. They had a legit chance of winning it all last year if they would have any sense to get Lamar Jackson under contract. Lamar bet on himself and won. It’s sad because the Ravens are an established organization since 1944 (formerly Cleveland Browns). The current Cleveland Browns are an expansion team. Any argument that it’s a better run organization is invalid.

  14. Berry had restructuring in mind when the Browns offered this contract. I’ve come around to believe this contract is not as bad as I originally thought. Even though restructuring kicks the can, the cap will continue to increase each year so this hit becomes more absorbable as time passes.
    Hopefully, Watson’s play will rebound so that the trade of 3 #1s (and other picks) will be worth it.

  15. The right to convert salary to signing bonus isn’t helpful to the Browns. We’re seeing some delusional thinking about the Browns’ cap situation relative to likely cap growth. If the cap grows to $260 mil. by 2024, the Browns’ current contracts for only 35 players would put them at or near the cap number while still needing 18 guys for a 53-man roster. For 2025, they have commitments of over $190 mil. (the highest of any team) for only 21 players. You’re trying to improve a non-playoff team by adding Day 2 and Day 3 draft picks, waiver-wire castoffs, and non-starters from other teams while being hamstrung as far as re-signing your own quality players.

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