After weeks of rumors and speculation, the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes have finally come to an end. The Cleveland Browns pulled off one the league's biggest trades in history to land the former all-pro quarterback.
The trade, which was finalized last week, sent Watson and a sixth round pick to the Browns in return for three first round picks (2022, 2023, 2024), one third round pick (2023), and two fourth round picks (2022, 2024).
In addition to getting a change of scenery, Watson’s trade came with a brand new five-year, $230 million deal. The deal is entirely guaranteed, giving Watson the most guaranteed money in NFL history. The money comes as a career turn-around for Watson because, just a year ago, it was believed that he may never wear an NFL jersey again.
Before the 2021 NFL season, Deshaun became the subject of 22 civil suits filed between March and April, which accused him of coercive and lewd sexual behavior. Two of the suits went a step further to the level of sexual assault. Watson and his lawyers denied all of these allegations. However, he still missed the entirety of last year's season reportedly due to conflict between him and the Texans' organization.
Watson requested a trade from the Texans two months before the allegations surfaced, but due to his potential charges, teams had no interest in acquiring him. This led Watson to hold out and step away from the team for the 2021 season.
Watson’s hold out came to a close on March 14th when a grand jury decided not to indict him on any charges in regards to the 22 allegations against him. While this freed Watson of any legal discipline, he is still facing civil penalties. Once the jury's verdict hit the news, trade talks fired up as teams such as the Saints, Browns, and Falcons offered hefty packages to try and land Watson.
Now on a new team, Watson hopes for a fresh start. However, he may be sidelined further as the NFL released a statement that they would conduct their own investigation and pursue a possible suspension of the QB.
This possible suspension could come as an attempt at redemption for the NFL as they have previously had lackluster responses to sexual assault among players in the league.
It was eight years ago when the league suspended starting running back Ray Rice for only two games when video surfaced of him violently beating his then-girlfriend. The league has also been looking to set a precedent with their suspensions; this past month, wide receiver Calvin Ridley received a year long suspension for sports gambling while recovering from an injury.
In spite of this potential suspension, Watson’s deal has been structured such that he would only lose out on one million of his $230 million deal if he is suspended for the 2022 season. This is the result of major backloading in his salary where he goes from a one-million-dollar salary in 2022, to $46 million in each of the following four years. He also has his $46 million signing bonus, which is spread out over the five years and would remain untouched even in the event of a suspension.
While Watson is not completely out of the blue yet, he is set to be the Browns' starting QB come week one. The team hopes to return to the playoffs in a stacked AFC and rebound from last year's disappointing season.