Deshaun Watson’s Salary Cap Hit For Cleveland Browns Will Set New NFL Record

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Despite Deshaun Watson facing 30 accusers for sexual harassment and/or assault, the Cleveland Browns traded for the quarterback last offseason. Not only did they acquire Watson, but the Browns gave him a ridiculous contract extension.

He signed a five-year, $230.5 million deal, fully guaranteed. Not only that, but the contract protected Watson from losing too much money from a suspension.

Ultimately, following an appeal of a six-game suspension, the league suspended Deshaun Watson for 11 games. The NFL fined Watson $5 million and he lost around $650,000 in salary. See, the Browns structured his contract so that his base salary last season was $1 million.

Only his base pay would be reduced by suspension, hence losing 11/17 of that base salary. NFL executives were furious with the contract structure, but the Browns did it anyway.

But while Watson’s contract is favorable to him, it is much less so for the Browns.

His salary cap number — which takes into account far more than base salary — will be nearly $55 million. That’s an NFL record.

Deshaun Watson costs the Cleveland Browns a TON of money, in more ways than one

For a player with all the baggage of Deshaun Watson, this is outrageous. And, let’s set aside the sexual misconduct allegations for a minute.

If we just focus on football, this is a bad investment. Watson started six games this season following his suspension. And, he wasn’t particularly good.

The team went 3-3 in those games, and Watson completed less than 60% of his passes with seven touchdowns and five interceptions.

Deshaun Watson better get his play back to All-Pro level or else the Cleveland Browns are wasting nearly 25% of their NFL salary cap space.
Deshaun Watson better get his play back to All-Pro level or else the Cleveland Browns are wasting nearly 25% of their NFL salary cap space. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Those are the only six NFL games he’s even played since 2020. SIX starts in the past two seasons.

The NFL raised its salary cap to a record $224.8 million for the 2023-24 season, up from $208 million this past season.

The Browns likely knew the cap was set for a big increase, probably why they were willing to do the deal. Other quarterbacks who are due massive extensions (like Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, for example) will probably best Watson’s number.

But those are great young quarterbacks who have had success in the past couple years. Deshaun Watson is 27 years old and hasn’t played at a high level since 2020 — which will be nearly three full years when next season begins.

And, he’s going to consume almost one quarter of the team’s cap space. Star pass rusher Myles Garrett has a cap number of nearly $30 million. Wide receiver Amari Cooper comes in at just under $24 million.

Those three players account for almost HALF of the Browns salary cap.

That’s certainly one way to build a team.

Probably not the right way, though.

Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @OutkickDanZ

Written by Dan Zaksheske

Dan began his sports media career at ESPN, where he survived for nearly a decade. Once the Stockholm Syndrome cleared, he made his way to Outkick. He is secure enough in his masculinity to admit he is a cat-enthusiast with three cats, one of which is named “Brady” because his wife wishes she were married to Tom instead of him.

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