As training camp begins, new franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson may face NFL discipline, putting a fresh start on hold for both sides.
Watson’s off-field behavior has been the subject of legal and NFL scrutiny, but the Browns acquired him from the Houston Texans and gave him a $230 million contract.
It’s still a mystery when he’ll be back on the field after leaving Houston last season.
And that variable makes any assessment by the Browns a guess.
Training camp location: Berea, Ohio
Cross Country Mortgage Campus
Rookie Report Date: July 22nd
Veteran’s Report Date: July 26
Key acquisitions: QB Deshaun Watson, WR Amari Cooper, DE Jadeveon Clowney, WR Jakeem Grant, QB Jacoby Brissett, DT Taven Bryan
Main losses: QB Baker Mayfield, WR Jarvis Landry, TE Austin Hooper, FB Andy Janovich, CB MJ Stewart
The Deshaun Watson deal overshadows everything else due to the high level of risk the Browns took in acquiring it (five years, $230 million) coupled with the assets they had to give up to complete the deal – three draft Picks from the first round with three more picks – and future spending limits for the rest of the list. However, he’s a three-time Pro Bowler and has the potential to improve the team’s fortunes when he’s on the field and the team avoids injuries elsewhere. The Browns also made some smart moves, including adding Jacoby Brissett ($4.65 million), a decent insurance policy for the quarterback. Amari Cooper didn’t cost the team much (in terms of draft capital or dollars spent), while the addition of Taven Bryan (1 year, $4 million) and the signing of Jadeveon Clowney (1 year, $10 million) were wise decisions that will help the defensive front. Losses of Jarvis Landry and Austin Hooper in free agency have been cushioned (the latter by extending David Njoku), but has the team appropriately replaced full-back Andy Janovich or cornerback MJ Stewart? Maybe not. The draft is optimistic given that the Browns added nine talented players in the mid-to-late rounds, even without a pick in the first two rounds. Third-round cornerback Martin Emerson, defensive end Alex Wright, and wide receiver David Bell, along with fourth-round defensive tackles Perrion Winfrey and kicker Cade York, give Cleveland good odds for someone (or people) to fold becomes.
Watson will have a hard time making that contract, or the deal itself, look like a fair deal and if he can’t do that then the risk wasn’t worth it.
–WEEK 1 IN FOCUS:
Panthers vs. Browns, 1 p.m. ET
Bank of America Stadium
Line: Browns -1
Anyone confident that Deshaun Watson will fit should go for the Watson-v-Baker Mayfield Week 1 game with Cleveland as the tiny favorite in a game that under normal circumstances could be closer to Brown’s -6 or -6.5 run window. Ditto for the tiny 41.5 score, which will be as low as any Week 1 forecast. Of course, Watson’s availability is uncertain at this point, meaning the risk for early bettors is that they line up bite and support Jacoby Brissett on the road in week 1.
–MAKE IT A DOUBLE?
Can the Browns win 10 or more games in 2022?
FanDuel offers reasonable odds of +115 for Cleveland to win 10+ in 17 games.
The AFC North remains resilient, underscored by the Cincinnati Bengals’ Super Bowl, which was played out of thin air last season. But the Browns are still one of the most talented teams in the AFC, and a 12-5 – again with Watson in QB and not on the suspension list – seems possible.
– Field level media