Texans trade Deshaun Watson to Browns as he lands $230 million contract

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is joining the Cleveland Browns has been traded to the AFC North franchise in a blockbuster transaction, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly.

The deal included three first-round draft picks, a third-round pick in 2023, and a 2024 fourth-round selection in exchange for the three-time Pro Bowl selection and a 2024 fifth-round draft pick, according to league sources.

Watson will also get a five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million contract for the highest guarantee in NFL history and includes a $45 million signing bonus with a $1 million base salary in the first year of his deal, per league sources.He's due $184 million in the first four years of the deal and is on top of his four-year, $156 million extension, per league sources.

“Earlier today, we agreed to trade Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns," Texans general manager Nick Caserio said. "I felt it was the right move for our organization as we head into the new league year focused on building our roster for the 2022 season. Our priority right now is adding talented players to the foundation we have already put in place over the last 15 months and this trade supports that plan. As we navigate through the rest of the offseason, we remain open-minded to all avenues that allow us to improve our roster and add to our program.”

The deal was negotiated by Browns general manager Andrew Berry and Watson's agent, David Mulugheta. Trade terms have been agreed to and submitted to the league office for final approval, per a league source.

Watson maintained an open mind throughout recruiting process while meeting with teams, per league sources, and shifted a few times before ultimately picking Browns with their competitive roster and willingness to give him a $230 million fully guaranteed deal with a $45 million signing bonus.

The Texans recognized the significance of Watson's no-trade clause and green-lit his ability to meet with teams in a collaborative process that led to a trade.

Caserio inherited a difficult situation when hired as Watson had requested a trade, then his legal problems made that more difficult. One year later, Caserio trades Watson to Browns for a huge haul of picks that includes three first-round picks.

“I’m extremely proud of the way Nick Caserio navigated us through this challenging situation," Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair said. "He remained patient before ultimately making the decision that is best for us in both the short and long term. We’re confident in our plan to build a championship program that can sustain success and our entire organization is excited to move forward together.”

Caserio inherited a difficult situation when hired as Watson had requested a trade, then his legal problems made that more difficult. One year later, Caserio trades Watson to Browns for a huge haul of picks that includes three first-round picks.

The Browns were informed Thursday they had been eliminated from consideration along with the Carolina Panthers with Watson narrowing his decision to the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints before the quarterback changed his mind Friday and shifted to the Browns, per sources.

The Browns were one of more than a dozen suitors for Watson and ultimately became the choice after he initially narrowed down the list to them, the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, and New Orleans Saints.

As Watson is being traded to the Browns, it will end a long, drawn-out process that lasted more than a year. Watson has -- and is still -- working through several legal issues, but the biggest hurdle was cleared when a grand jury opted not to indict him on charges. Watson is still facing 22 civil lawsuits by massage therapists with allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior

"Any transaction would have no effect on the NFL's ongoing and comprehensive investigation of the serious allegations against Deshaun Watson," league spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email. "Nor would it affect his status under the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Personal Conduct Policy. If the league's investigation determines that Watson violated the Personal Conduct Policy, discipline may be imposed pursuant to the policy and the CBA."

While those legal proceedings are expected to continue to play out in the weeks ahead, the Browns know that he cannot face any prosecution on any of the charges, according to Johna Stallings of the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

Watson is scheduled for a deposition on Tuesday to be held at the office of his lawyer, Rusty Hardin. It's his third deposition in the lawsuits filed by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee.

And while Watson could still be suspended by the NFL, the viewpoint of Cleveland is that the long-term payoff is worth not having Watson for however many games the NFL would suspend him in the short term.

With Watson now out of Houston, the Texans can look ahead and begin building their future under general manager Nick Caserio and head coach Lovie Smith. They'll have the draft capital to do just that.

The Browns will now look to trade Baker Mayfield. A source indicated previously that Mayfield would welcome a trade to the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks.

Watson met with several teams this week, including the Saints, Panthers, Browns, and Falcons. The Texans didn't grant permission for any team to meet with him unless they submitted a trade proposal. That's so time wasn't wasted in case Watson waives his no-trade clause.

The Texans made it clear from the beginning that they were looking for three first-round draft picks, a package of other draft capital, and, potentially, players in exchange for Watson.

Watson prioritized teams that are best positioned to win a Super Bowl, shared his vision for how to orchestrate an offense, have talented personnel, and are a culture fit, according to league sources.

The list of teams that made inquiries about Watson included the Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Miami Dolphins, who were once aggressively pursuing Watson, did not initiate conversations this time around.

The Falcons and Saints were the finalists when Watson informed the Browns they were eliminated before he changed his mind. The deal includes $80 million more than the previous record for fully guaranteed money at signing.

Watson is a dynamic player who led the NFL in passing yardage two seasons ago. The former first-round draft pick from Clemson will now take his multidimensional game to Cleveland.

Houston Texans v Cleveland Browns

Photo: Getty Images

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