Browns admit bad optics to structure of Deshaun Watson deal

Deshaun Watson, Andrew Berry, Cleveland Browns. (Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)
Deshaun Watson, Andrew Berry, Cleveland Browns. (Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports) /

Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry admits it is a bad look of making Deshaun Watson’s contract only carry a $1 million base salary for the 2022 NFL season.

Optically, it was a bad look for general manager Andrew Berry and the Cleveland Browns by how they structured the Deshaun Watson deal.

Watson will only have a $1 million base salary for 2022, saving him a potential fortune if the league bans him for any time this season. This indicates the Browns are anticipating their new franchise quarterback will be suspended by the NFL for at least some time in his first year with them. Cleveland has since signed veteran stop-gap Jacoby Brissett to potentially offset any short-term absence Watson has from the Browns football team for the upcoming season.

Berry admits this is not a good look for the Browns organization to structure a contract this way.

Cleveland Browns GM admits Deshaun Watson contract structure is a bad look

From a business standpoint, it makes sense to do a deal in this manner. The Browns are expecting if Watson is suspended by the league, it will be for the 2022 campaign. In the meantime, these salary cap gymnastics of sorts will allow the Browns to field a highly-competitive team, whether or not Watson plays a down for them this season. It is all about using financial resources elsewhere.

The reason this is such a bad look optically is the overall ethicality. It comes across as the Browns admitting guilt by doing this. While it remains to be seen if Watson will be indicted by a grand jury or will have to go settle his plethora of civil lawsuits, structuring a contract this sneakily is not something a first-class organization would do. It is trying to get one past the NFL, undoubtedly.

Ultimately, the Browns are now tied to whatever happens with Watson’s legal situation. They traded for the former Houston Texans starting quarterback that did not want to be there anymore. While his legal situation will be sorted out one way or another, Watson’s entry point into the Browns organization is a potential tinder box for a franchise that regularly exhibits dysfunction.

Berry and his staff may have done accounting to keep Watson from paying a stiff financial penalty to the NFL, but this was not good business ethics.

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