The Browns made a historic and polarizing investment in Deshaun Watson in 2022, only for the quarterback to post career-worst numbers in his abbreviated Cleveland debut. Now, with his second Browns season on the horizon, Watson is confident he's "evolved to a new level," according to ESPN, claiming he's better than he ever was with the Texans.
"I'm not the same guy," Watson said Wednesday when asked about replicating his Pro Bowl production of 2020. "I feel like I've improved. I've evolved to a new level. And I'm ready to be able to show that."
The former first-round pick was widely considered one of the NFL's best young QBs in Houston, where he led two playoff runs. But he missed all of 2021 while seeking a trade and facing dozens of civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct, then struggled in a 3-3 stretch as the Browns' QB following an 11-game suspension to start 2022.
"Last year," Watson said, per ESPN, "was a tricky time where I was learning everything."
Acquired for a massive trade package including three first-round picks, then signed to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million deal, Watson is set to play his first full season with Cleveland in 2023, aiming to reverse the trajectory.
"I don't want to return as the guy (I was in) Houston," he said. "I want to be better than that guy. I had a lot of fun, a lot of success in Houston. But I want to have that success and start something new in Cleveland."
That journey will begin Sunday, Sept. 10, when the Browns host the rival Bengals to kick off their new season.