Deshaun Watson has a new home in the NFL. After days of deliberation and meeting with several prospective teams, the now-former Texans quarterback decided to waive his no-trade clause on Friday to join the Cleveland Browns. While any Watson trade was going to be seismic, this decision was a particularly stunning move as the Browns were initially eliminated from contention on Thursday only to be thrust back in at the midnight hour.
After Watson announced where he wanted to go, the Texans and Browns took it the rest of the way to complete the deal that is one of the biggest in league history. On Monday, the official trade details were released as Houston sent Watson and a 2024 sixth-round pick to the Browns in exchange for first-round picks in 2022, 2023, and 2024 along with a 2023 third-rounder and 2022 and 2024 fourth-round selections. Cleveland also inked Watson to a new five-year, $230 million deal that is fully guaranteed.
Below, you'll find our grades for this blockbuster and see how both the Browns and Texans fared in the deal.
The Browns get a clear upgrade at quarterback by slotting in Watson over Baker Mayfield, but this move does come with risks. The most immediate is Watson's off-the-field issues with his outstanding civil lawsuits by 22 different women who allege sexual misconduct or assault. The NFL is still investigating Watson regarding this situation and, when you look at how his new contract is structured, it appears like he is bracing for some type of suspension. Naturally, that'll hurt Cleveland's chances to contend out of the gate in 2022 if Watson misses considerable time. Second, the price tag to acquire him is considerable. While the Los Angeles Rams and their mint Lombardi Trophy are proof that draft picks can successfully be thrown to the wayside in pursuit of a title, mortgaging the future for nearly a half-decade of first-round picks will require success quickly.
With all that said, you can't deny Watson's talent. He's a lethal dual-threat quarterback that is firmly in that elite tier with the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and others in the AFC. At just 26 years old, the Browns have solved their quarterback situation for the foreseeable future and now find themselves as a legit threat to contend for what would be their first-ever Super Bowl title. For a franchise as starved for a Lombardi as the Browns are, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to see them push all their chips in the middle for this generational on-field talent.
It may have taken a bit longer than expected when Watson originally requested a trade after the 2020 season, but the Houston Texans landed on their feet quite well. To get the haul of this magnitude for a player that has as much off-the-field uncertainty as Watson does (even as he won't face criminal charges), it says just as much about Nick Caserio's prowess as it does the quarterback's immense talent. This was just the second time in NFL history in which one team traded three first-round picks (the Herschel Walker trade).
With Houston in a full rebuild, getting as many cracks as possible in the first round is vital to turning the franchise around in relatively short order. Having so many firsts also gives them the flexibility to move freely around the draft board if they identify a replacement for Watson in the future if 2021 third-rounder Davis Mills proves not to be the answer under center.
Of course, the only way this trade is truly a good move by the Texans is if they actually hit on the majority of these picks, which we won't know for about another decade. Strictly in regards to the haul of picks, however, you can't find many returns like this in league history.