The tension between the Cleveland Browns and their quarterback, Deshaun Watson, has taken a peculiar turn, and recent events have only deepened the intrigue.
The saga began in Week 4 when Watson, following an impressive performance against the Titans, appeared on the practice report with a shoulder injury, and his participation in practice was limited. He confidently declared his intention to play against Baltimore that Friday, but when game day arrived, he was conspicuously absent.
The situation took an even more perplexing turn at 5:04 p.m. ET on the day of the Ravens-Browns game when a source tipped me off about confusion among some players regarding Watson’s absence. Initially, there was a belief that he would play, but it seemed he had decided not to.
Despite the team characterizing it as a “collective decision” in response to inquiries, Coach Kevin Stefanski contradicted this by confirming the very next day that Watson had been medically cleared to play, intensifying the perception that he could have taken the field against the Ravens.
Anticipation grew that he would return after the Week 5 bye, but he was unable to play against the 49ers. He did make a comeback for the Sunday game against the Colts, but a substantial hit in the first quarter prompted a concussion evaluation. Stefanski, post-game, asserted his decision to keep Watson out, while Watson himself adopted a more cautious stance. The latest update reveals that Watson has been ruled out for the Week 8 game.
While some have speculated that Watson may not want to play, it’s premature to draw such conclusions. Watson’s history includes playing with a torn ACL at Clemson and taking a bus from Houston to Jacksonville and back due to rib and lung injuries just to ensure he could play for the Texans when flying wasn’t an option. So, why would he refuse to play now, especially when the Browns are in contention, and Watson appeared to be regaining his pre-2021 form before the shoulder injury?
Nevertheless, it would be unwise to ignore the possibility that Watson’s relationship with the Browns has soured. He sought an exit from Houston shortly after signing a lucrative extension, and the Browns were the first team he removed from his list of finalists in 2022 before they presented a generous five-year, fully guaranteed contract offer.
In summary, there’s a peculiar atmosphere surrounding this situation, with neither the team nor Watson making significant efforts to address it. We will continue to closely monitor developments and investigate whether this apparent standoff, presenting few favorable options for both sides, might evolve into a more substantial issue, especially considering Watson’s $46 million earnings in 2023, 2024, and 2025, with every penny guaranteed.
The question of whether a surprise trade might materialize before next Tuesday also looms, although, at this stage, it raises concerns about who would be willing to take on the financial burden of that contract.