Deshaun Watson traded to Browns: Cleveland says it did ‘extensive’ work examining QB’s off-field issues

Deshaun Watson is now officially a member of the Cleveland Browns. The team made its formal announcement of the blockbuster trade on Sunday and with it came a trio of statements from the Haslam family, GM Andrew Berry, and head coach Kevin Stefanski. In each of those statements, the Browns brass highlighted the deep dive the organization did on the quarterback leading up to this seismic trade, which included sending three first-round draft picks to Watson’s former team in the Houston Texans

Of course, a large piece of that evaluation of Watson is his off-the-field issues. While he will not face criminal charges, the quarterback is still dealing with outstanding civil lawsuits by 22 different women who allege sexual misconduct or sexual assault. The NFL is also still investigating the matter and, by how Watson has structured his new $230 million fully guaranteed deal, it appears he is bracing for some sort of suspension to start the 2022 season. 

“We spent a tremendous amount of time exploring and investigating the opportunity to trade for Deshaun Watson,” Dee and Jimmy Haslam’s statement reads. “We are acutely aware and empathetic to the highly personal sentiments expressed about this decision. Our team’s comprehensive evaluation process was of utmost importance due to the sensitive nature of his situation and the complex factors involved. We also understand there are still some legal proceedings that are ongoing and we will respect due process.

“It was pivotal that we, along with Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski, meet with Deshaun to have a straightforward dialogue, discuss our priorities, and hear directly from him on how he wants to approach his career on and off the field. He was humble, sincere, and candid. In our conversations, Deshaun detailed his commitment to leading our team; he understands and embraces the hard work needed to build his name both in the community and on the field. Those in-depth conversations, the extensive evaluation process, his dedication to being a great teammate and devotion to helping others within the NFL, within the community, and through his charitable initiatives provided the foundation for us to pursue Deshaun. We are confident in Deshaun and excited about moving forward with him as our quarterback and supporting his genuine and determined efforts.”

Berry added that the Browns have done “extensive investigative, legal and reference work over the past several months to provide us with the appropriate information needed to make an informed decision about pursuing him and moving forward with him as our quarterback.” 

That sentiment by Browns ownership and the front office does appear like the team is gearing up for some kind of blowback by acquiring Watson publicly and possible punishment by the league in the near future. Whatever concerns they may have had when beginning their pursuit, however, have clearly subsided as they shipped away a treasure trove of picks to the Texans along with handing Watson a monster contract extension. 

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