The Browns gave up a lot in draft compensation, money and reputation in acquiring Deshaun Watson. For better or worse, richer or poor, the Browns are married to the quarterback for at least four more years.
So, they have no choice but to make the most of the relationship.
Watson had not played in almost two years when he returned to the field last season after an 11-game suspension. He did not play like a quarterback worthy of the largest guaranteed contract in NFL history, throwing for 1,102 passing yards, seven touchdowns, five interceptions and posting a 3-3 record in six starts.
The Browns, though, are confident that, after knocking the rust off, Watson will return to the Pro Bowl-level form he showed with the Texans.
“I think confidence for me comes from seeing it, and I’ve seen him do it,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said, via Anthony Poisal of the team website. “I saw him do it in those games last season. I know it wasn’t perfect. I certainly wasn’t perfect. We weren’t perfect around him and as we all know, it’s not a one-man show. It’s a team game and we didn’t have as much team success as we would’ve liked late in the season there.
“But I’ve seen it from Deshaun in games. I’ve seen it from practice. I’ve seen it in his career, so that’s why I’m confident.”
The Browns upgraded the weapons for Watson, adding receivers Elijah Moore and Marquise Goodwin and tight end Jordan Akins. Improvement from Watson, though, is the biggest reason for optimism in Cleveland.
“I think we’re all very excited about Deshaun, excited for a full offseason with the guys he’s already built chemistry with and some of the additional players that we’ve added to the offense,” General Manager Andrew Berry said. “I think just even familiarity with Kevin and the offensive staff and just honestly even settling into a new environment. We’ve seen him obviously in practice and game settings. We’ve seen his talent, seen his ability, but it’s an adjustment period, and we feel really good about him getting a full spring, a full summer, and perhaps a more normal start to the regular season boding well for the team.”
The Browns expect to give Watson more freedom at the line of scrimmage this season because of the quarterback’s “comfort in the system.”
“He did it sometimes last year. I think that will only grow the more reps he gets in our system,” Stefanski said.