Deshaun Watson To Cleveland Browns Even As NFL Suspension Possible

The Deshaun Watson trade saga is over, as he has waived his no trade clause to join the Cleveland Browns, an NFL source confirmed to OutKick on Friday.

The trade will send three first-round draft picks from the Browns to the Houston Texans plus other considerations.

The Browns get the last remaining elite veteran quarterback available this offseason after convincing Watson to choose them over three other suitors that tried to lure him in meetings this week.

The Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints also met with Watson this week trying to lure him, but the Browns won.

Watson will become one of many elite quarterbacks in the AFC who have been playing there for years or join the conference this year.

The AFC also includes chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, Bills quarterback Josh Allen, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, and now Watson.

Watson is expected to sign a new contract with the Browns worth in excess of approximately $220 million over five years.

The Browns will trade incumbent quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Watson, 26, has not played since the 2020 season. He spent the 2021 season in legal limbo as the process of working through a criminal investigation and 22 civil lawsuits stemming from allegations of sexual misconduct by the quarterback against women who work as masseuses in Houston played out.

That process took a significant step forward in Watson's favor last week when a Harris County, TX., Grand Jury declined to hand down any indictments after hearing testimony for six hours.

That decision means Watson will not be arrested or face criminal chargers, which was enough for multiple teams to jump into the fray trying to land him in trade.

The Panthers, Browns, Falcons and Saints immediately jumped into the trade derby. The Seattle Seahawks, which traded Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos, tried to be part of the trade process but were rebuffed when they were told Watson was not interested playing there, per an NFL source.

Watson is clear of the criminal hurdles related to his case but civil cases remain. Indeed, this week Watson was deposed and answered questions related to the civil lawsuits on the same day he met with the Saints.

Beyond the civil question, Watson faces an NFL suspension for violating the NFL Personal Conduct Policy. That policy does not require a conviction for any offense to allow commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend an NFL employee for “conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in” the NFL

One league source told OutKick this week she believes Goodell will suspend Watson between four and six games to start the season. There's precedence for this punishments as former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was accused but never charged with sexually assaulting a Georgia college student.

Goodell suspended Roethlisberger six games and later cut that to four games prior to the 2010 season.

Despite all this it's clear Watson is an elite quarterback. And he has a chance to get better if the Falcons/Saints surround him with talent.

Watson completed a career-best 70.2 percent of his passes in 2020, when he was last on the field. He threw for a career-high 4,023 yards, which led the NFL and 33 touchdowns with only 7 interceptions.

Watson also led the NFL in yards per attempt with 8.9 in 2020.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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Armando Salguero is a national award-winning columnist and is OutKick's Senior NFL Writer. He has covered the NFL since 1990 and is a selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and a voter for the Associated Press All-Pro Team and Awards. Salguero, selected a top 10 columnist by the APSE, has worked for the Miami Herald, Miami News, Palm Beach Post and ESPN as a national reporter. He has also hosted morning drive radio shows in South Florida.