What in the world??? There has never been a week in the NFL like this before and there might never be a week like it ever again. The greatest quarterback of all time unretired just 40 days after hanging up his cleats. Then, the Broncos sent a huge haul to Seattle to land Russell Wilson as their new quarterback. Aaron Rodgers then signed the richest contract in NFL history on an annual salary basis to stay with the Packers. A couple of blockbuster trades saw Khalil Mack join the Chargers and Davante Adams land in Las Vegas. Oh, and Carson Wentz is in Washington now. To cap off this whirlwind of a week, the Browns traded three first-round picks as part of a package to land Deshaun Watson. Simply stunning.
The Watson sweepstakes have been long and complicated. Watson announced that he wanted to be traded last year, but the Texans showed no signs of agreeing. It appeared to set up a standoff between team and player until the news about Watson’s off-the-field actions broke. He sat out all of 2021 as the investigation into allegations of sexual assault took place. Interestingly, the NFL never put Watson on the commissioner’s exempt list despite the ongoing situation. On March 11, just one week before Watson was ultimately traded, a grand jury declined to indict the then Texans quarterback on charges stemming from lawsuits filed by 22 women alleging harassment and sexual assault. That opened the floodgates for a return to the field.
Now, Watson is still facing 22 civil lawsuits and will likely be disciplined by the league. This situation is far from being resolved. Clearly the Browns, whether right or wrong, felt comfortable bringing Watson into the fold. While there is a lot of football implications to discuss with this move, it is really important not to lose sight of the significance of these allegations and what it will mean if it comes out that Watson is in fact a sex offender. As of now, we don’t know if he is one way or the other. I hope the legal system leads to justice, but I also know that too often, that isn’t the case.
What’s more, this past week alone has been truly bizarre. From reports out of the Browns front office stating they want “an adult” at quarterback to reports that Watson had informed Cleveland he would not play for them, this saga is astounding. For the Browns, it is hard to imagine how acquiring a player in the midst of a sexual assault scandal gives you an adult at the position. For Watson, I can understand the about face when there is $230 million in GUARANTEED money on the table. Still, it is staggering that the Browns would be willing to do this given Watson’s deplorable off-the-field behavior and the pending consequences.
There is no easy way to transition to the football side of things, but this does greatly impact the NFL as a whole. Baker Mayfield will now certainly be the subject of trade offers. I wrote about where he could land yesterday. Plus, the draft just became way more interesting.
It appears like the Texans will give Davis Mills the opportunity to start at quarterback this season. With two too-15 selections, Houston can now fill some of the major holes on its offense, namely on the offensive line and at receiver. This also gives the Texans all the draft capital needed in order to move up for the top prospect in next year’s draft or to acquire a veteran via trade if Mills does not look like the long-term answer. In short, Houston actually seems poised to properly rebuild.
On Cleveland’s side of things, they will hope to recoup a few draft picks in exchange for Mayfield. Even after acquiring Amari Cooper, the Browns need another receiver. Plus, they have an opening at center after releasing J.C. Tretter. They have way less premium draft capital to address those positions, but the Browns should be able to attract whatever remaining free agents they want after this move. That is, assuming players don’t have an issue with Watson.
From a football perspective, there is no doubt the Browns got better. Cleveland just better hope it is ready to handle the media firestorm that is bound to follow this decision. There will be intense scrutiny and criticism of the Browns and Watson each step of the way. Forget whatever media attention Mayfield drew, Cleveland now has a target on its back.