When the Browns gave a five-year, $230 million, fully-guaranteed contract to quarterback Deshaun Watson, they surely didn’t intend to throw a wrench in the relationship between the Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson.
But they did. (Browns fans regard that as a collateral benefit.)
In hindsight, why wouldn’t Watson’s deal create an issue between the Ravens and Jackson? He’s a former MVP who has accomplished far more than Watson ever has. And Jackson hasn’t been sued once for alleged sexual misconduct during massage-therapy sessions. Watson was sued more than 20 times — and most of those cases were pending when the Browns paid and traded for him.
Along the way, Watson made $10 million to not play in 2021. Then, after missing a full season, Watson got $46 million per year on a five-year deal with every dollar guaranteed at signing.
Jackson has every right to look at Watson’s contract and say, “If that’s what he’s worth, I’m worth at least that much if not more.”
Adding to the argument is the fact that the Browns also gave up three first-round picks and more in order to secure the ability to pay Jackson. The Ravens can make the financial commitment without squandering so many key draft picks. Basically, the total investment made by the Browns far exceeds the $230 million in full guarantees at signing.
Still, despite the obvious apples-to-apples comparisons between Jackson and Watson, key differences exist. Watson, after the 2020 season, made it clear that he was done with the Texans. The Texans agreed to trade him; they could have refused. Then, once the potential for a criminal prosecution went away, the Texans and Watson’s agents set up a four-team scramble (Browns, Panthers, Falcons, Saints) for Deshaun.
Whether intended or not, Watson’s agents worked the situation to perfection, eliminating the Browns after they had alienated Baker Mayfield and forcing them to do something desperate and impulsive. Watson, put simply, was in the best possible place at the best possible time.
It could have been Lamar, frankly. After a year of failed negotiations with the Ravens, he could have said, “I want out.” If the Ravens (like the Texans) had relented and made him available, the Browns or the Falcons or the Panthers or the Falcons (or maybe even the Dolphins, who wanted Tom Brady last year) would have been all over Lamar.
Whether before Watson received good news from a grand jury or right after he was traded, the time for Jackson to ask for a trade was a year ago, not now.
It all comes back to Lamar not having someone who is skilled not just at securing a contract but also at coming up with an effective strategy and implementing it. Lamar’s camp has been unable to develop a strategy. It has been unable to negotiate a deal. It has been unable to close a deal that was on the table and, in hindsight, he perhaps should have been taken.
On one hand, it’s unfortunate for Lamar. Millions of dollars he could have earned over the last two seasons are gone, and they are never coming back. On the other hand, we all have an inalienable right to screw up our own business interests. Whether he meant to or not, that’s exactly what Lamar and those advising him have done.
The sooner he understands the differences between Deshaun’s situation and his, the sooner Lamar will turn things around and get what he deserves, even if a big part of what he deserves is gone for good.