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Deshaun Watson chooses Cleveland Browns for next home, reports say

Deshaun Watson - NFL quarterback
Deshaun Watson - NFL quarterback(Source: Houston Texans via MGN)
Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 3:01 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Controversial quarterback Deshaun Watson has settled on a new team, deciding to waive the no-trade clause in his contract to allow the Cleveland Browns to acquire him in a deal with the Houston Texas, according to multiple reports.

The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and ESPN’s Adam Schefter said Watson made his choice Friday (March 18), choosing the Browns as his next destination after being courted heavily over the past week by the Saints, Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons.

Watson’s decision marked a stunning turnaround. Only one day earlier, his representatives had informed the Browns that they no longer were in the running to land the star quarterback.

The suitors for the 26-year-old former Clemson University star emerged after a grand jury in Houston on March 11 found insufficient evidence to indict Watson on any criminal charges related to nearly two dozen allegations of sexual misconduct levied by women Watson hired for massage therapy sessions.

Watson still faces 22 civil lawsuits related to the allegations. He also remains under investigation by the NFL, which could impose a suspension if it determines Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy.

“Deshaun Watson did not commit any crimes and is not guilty of any offenses,” his attorney Rusty Hardin said in a statement last Friday. “Now that the criminal investigations have been completed, we are happy to move forward with the civil case depositions. We will vigorously defend those cases with every ounce we have.”

No trial date has been set for the lawsuits.

Watson and his representatives met in Houston with the Saints and Panthers on Monday, the Browns on Tuesday and the Falcons on Wednesday before making his decision.

Terms of the trade were not immediately known. But numerous reports said the Texans’ asking price for Watson included multiple draft picks including first-round selections and at least one established NFL player.

Watson requested a trade from Houston before the misconduct allegations surfaced. But once the accusations became public, potential suitors backed away until the matter of criminal liability was settled. The Texans refused to put Watson back on the field last season amid the criminal probe.

Watson worked out mostly by himself at team practices last season. He was declared inactive by the Texans for all of last season’s 17 games, while still being paid his entire $10.54 million base salary.

Watson had four years and $119 million remaining on his contract, according to the salary tracking website spotrac.com. He was due to be paid $35 million next season, $20 million in 2023, $32 million in 2024 and $32 million in 2025. He also had an incentive bonus in each of those remaining seasons that would pay an extra $1 million for a Super Bowl victory in which he took at least 50 percent of his team’s Super Bowl snaps.

However, as part of agreeing to go to Cleveland, Rapoport reported that Watson soon will sign a new record-setting contract paying him a fully guaranteed $230 million over the next five years, which shatters by $80 million the previous record for guaranteed money at signing, the $150 million recently assured to quarterback Aaron Rodgers to remain in Green Bay.

This developing story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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