NFL Hot Press: Watson Contract Demands Pushed Teams Away

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Combine Logo Watson Contract Demands Pushed Teams Away

Updated March 1, 2023
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

Back during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, one of the top players being discussed in the trade market was veteran quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson and the Texans were engineering their divorce, and a number of franchises were pursuing a trade for Watson. After speaking with teams, Watson’s camp let it be known that the Cleveland Browns were out of the running. Then just a day or two later, Watson ended up being traded to the Browns as his chosen destination. Sources from some of the other teams that were discussing a trade with Houston told the reason for the reversal over Cleveland was because the franhcise was willing to give Watson a contract that the other teams were simply not willing to write.

Multiple teams were lobbying Watson to accept a trade to their organization, and these were some landing spots that seemed to appeal more to him than going to Cleveland. However, Watson’s representatives then said they wanted a new contract as well. Watson had signed a 4-year, $156 million contract extension with the Texans in September of 2020, so with years remaining on his contact, he was not approaching free agency and in need of a new contract. That deal was much more palatable to teams than the contract Watson wanted.

The contract demands led to other teams pulling out of the trade discussions, per sources with those teams, and the Browns swooped back in as they were willing to meet Watson’s asking price. Cleveland gave Watson a 5-year deal worth $230 million that was fully guaranteed. It was also structured with a 2022 base salary of $402,500 in order to help Watson escape losing a lot of his contract to his impending suspension. Cleveland appears to be regretting the contract, as the organization is said to already be discussing a restructuring.

Watson’s contract will have major ramifications this offseason becuase it could come into play for setting the market price on contracts for veteran quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson, Derek Carr and Aaron Rodgers. Watson, meanwhile, played poorly last season, and the Browns are trying to make the contract more team friendly.