The Cleveland Browns don’t want out of Deshaun Watson’s wallet-busting contract — they just want to restructure it.
After selling their soul for quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Cleveland Browns are starting to regret it. Well, not the contract in principle but certain parts of the contract, specifically the parts that deal an enormous cap hit to the franchise in 2023.
One season into Watson’s five-year deal, general manager Andrew Berry said he was considering reworking the precedent-setting contract to free up space for the Browns to acquire more talent this offseason.
During Tuesday’s media session at the NFL Combine, Berry said “there’s a lot of flexibility in terms of what we can do” and remained open to the idea of a contract restructure.
For those oblivious to last year’s offseason drama, Cleveland signed Deshaun Watson to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract, breaking records for the amount of guaranteed money and for his league-leading salary cap hit in 2023, a whopping $55 million which would account for roughly 24 percent of the Browns’ total cap space.
Browns screwed themselves over with Deshaun Watson’s contract
Currently, according to Spotrac, the Browns are $14 million over the salary cap and need to be in the clear by the time free agency period starts, March 15.
Watson is due nearly $55 million in guarantees for 2023 and each of the next three seasons after that, but there are a few ways the Browns can clear cap space such as adding void years to Watson’s contract or converting part of Watson’s base salary into a signing bonus.
Cleveland can also extend Watson, though after Watson’s 2022 performance they may not be so eager on doing that just yet. In six games, Watson threw for 1,102 yards and recorded seven touchdowns against five interceptions; he also posted his career-worst pass completion rate and struggled to help the Browns make the playoffs in the final stretch of the season.
Watson’s arrival in Cleveland was complicated from the start, and the Browns essentially threw away their future to nab him, giving three first-rounders to the Houston Texans. The franchise bet it all on Watson and hope that in return, he’ll be open to more team-friendly restructures to keep the Browns competitive in the long run.