What a Deshaun Watson Suspension Could Mean for Browns Win Total

What a Deshaun Watson Suspension Could Mean for Browns Win Total

Ayden Fahlstrom
6 months ago
3 min read

Acquiring a superstar quarterback in his prime should be enough to vault any team into Super Bowl contention. But Cleveland's trade for Deshaun Watson is more complicated than the average blockbuster deal.

By trading six draft picks — three in the first round alone — the Browns made it clear they believe Watson will be their starting quarterback starting this fall.

But there’s a strong chance the 26-year-old doesn’t see the field in Week 1, Week 8, or even later. That’s because the NFL can still issue a suspension for a star QB even though he won’t face criminal charges.

Let’s revisit the Watson controversy and look at what a suspension would mean for the Browns as a whole.

Deshaun Watson’s Current Situation

Through four seasons, Watson was unquestionably one of the game’s top QBs. The former Clemson star racked up three Pro Bowl nods and led the league with over 4,800 passing yards in 2020.

However, in March of 2021, a massage therapist filed a civil lawsuit against Watson with claims of sexual misconduct. Soon, more and more therapists came forward, resulting in a total of 22 separate allegations of misconduct.

With uncertainty regarding his legal situation and demands to be traded, Watson didn’t take a single snap for the Houston Texans in 2021. In fact, many wondered if the QB would ever play in the NFL again.

This past March, a grand jury declined to indict Watson on any criminal charges. A week later, the Browns traded six draft picks for the QB and signed him to a record-shattering five-year, $230 million deal.

Watson, for now, appears to be in the clear as far as avoiding prison is concerned. But he is still facing 22 civil lawsuits that accuse him of anything from sexual harassment to assault.

As far as his football career is concerned, the NFL has been conducting its own investigation into Watson over the last several weeks. The process, which also included interviews with Watson, is nearing an end, after which the league will make a ruling.

How Deshaun Watson’s Suspension Would Impact the Win Total

If you venture to the betJACK Training Camp right now, you’ll be able to bet the win totals for 31 NFL teams. Yes, 31. With Watson’s possible suspension looming, the Browns’ O/U isn’t currently available. And even though most believe a suspension is imminent, most experts are unsure whether it will four games, eight games, or an entire season.

Even though there is considerable doubt as to how long he’ll be suspended, it’s fairly obvious that Cleveland’s win total would tank no matter how many games Watson is forced to miss.

After a rocky 2021 and the subsequent Watson trade, the marriage between Baker Mayfield and the Browns is over. While the two sides haven’t parted ways yet, both sides are searching for a trade partner to take on the 2018 first-overall pick. If nothing materializes, Cleveland would just cut Mayfield and eat $18.8 million in dead cap.

If Watson is suspended for a long period of time and Mayfield is out of the picture, Jacoby Brissett becomes the Browns’ new QB1. Brissett has been in the NFL for six seasons, most recently playing for the Miami Dolphins.

He’s been a full-time starter twice in his career, throwing 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017 and 2019.

The 29-year-old is a well-regarded backup and has a fairly high floor, but his ceiling is incredibly limited. In all likelihood, a Brissett-led offense would mean a greater emphasis on running the ball — good news for running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

Assuming Watson misses half the season or more, it would be surprising to see Cleveland’s win total drop lower than 7.0 wins. Even with Mayfield playing on a bum shoulder, the 2021 Browns still compiled an 8-9 record. And since their unforgettable 0-16 season in 2017, they’ve hit seven or more wins three times.

Brissett is good enough to keep the wheels from falling off, so a massive fall in win totals is unlikely. That said, it won’t be close to what the Browns would have had with Watson starting 17 games in the fall.

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