The recent trade of quarterback Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans to the Cleveland Browns triggered shockwaves throughout the National Football League.
Watson, considered one of the top young QB talents in the game, didn’t play a single down in the 2021-22 season after he was accused of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior in 23 civil lawsuits. With 22 lawsuits still active, Watson’s off-the-field problems remain at issue — although he won’t be charged in criminal court.
Nonetheless, the Browns, who officially announced the trade on Sunday, felt confident enough that the 26-year-old will resolve his legal troubles that they were reportedly willing to offer him a five-year, $230 million contract to become their franchise QB.
With news of the trade, DraftKings has the Browns at 15/1 (along with the San Francisco 49ers) to win the Super Bowl, which ranks as the seventh-best odds to win it all. Meanwhile, at Caesars Sportsbook, the odds of Cleveland winning the Super Bowl moved from 40/1 before the trade to 16/1 after the announcement.
Watson deal creates excitement for Cleveland
DraftKings has Buffalo with the best odds to win the Super Bowl LVII at +650, followed by Tampa Bay (8/1), Kansas City (+850), Green Bay (10/1), defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles (10/1), and Denver (14/1).
BetMGM and FanDuel also have odds of +650 on the Bills capturing their first Super Bowl title in franchise history. BetMGM has Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, and the Los Angeles Chargers at odds of 16/1 each to win the Super Bowl, while FanDuel has odds of 18/1 on the Browns winning the Super Bowl with Watson under center.
Additionally, DraftKings has odds of 8/1 on the Browns and Denver prevailing as AFC champions. Only Buffalo (3/1) and K.C. (+450) have shorter odds. BetMGM has odds of +850 on the Browns to win the AFC championship, while Caesars has odds of 9/1 and FanDuel lists odds of 10/1 on Cleveland taking the conference title for the first time in the Super Bowl era.
Interestingly, the sportsbooks list Cleveland as the favorite to prevail in the AFC North Division, which includes Super Bowl runner-up and in-state rival Cincinnati. BetMGM has odds of +150 on the Browns winning the division, while DraftKings has odds of +160, Caesars +165, and FanDuel +185.
The Browns say they did "extensive" research regarding the claims pending against Deshaun Watson. The lawyer representing the 22 women suing him says the Browns didn't contact him, at all. https://t.co/Gb9j1vwkgg
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 20, 2022
The Texans had also been in trade talks involving Watson with New Orleans, Atlanta, and Carolina. In the end, it was the Browns and Texans coming together on a blockbuster trade. The Browns are giving up three first-round draft picks, a 2023 third-round pick, and fourth- and fifth-rounders in 2024 for Watson.
Browns brass heavily vet incoming QB
Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam released statements about the controversial move to trade for a talented player dealing with legal issues that could possibly keep him sidelined for a spell. It’s not known if the NFL will hand down suspensions to Watson, who was the leader on a Texans team that was a serious contender in the AFC South before Watson missed all of last season.
“We spent a tremendous amount of time exploring and investigating the opportunity to trade for Deshaun Watson,” the Haslams said in a statement. “We are acutely aware and empathetic to the highly personal sentiments expressed about this decision. Our team’s comprehensive evaluation process was of utmost importance due to the sensitive nature of his situation and the complex factors involved. We also understand there are still some legal proceedings that are ongoing and we will respect due process. … We are confident in Deshaun and excited about moving forward with him as our quarterback and supporting his genuine and determined efforts.”
Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski also offered his support for the trade for Watson, who has completed nearly 70% of his passes for 14,539 yards, 104 touchdowns, and 36 interceptions over four seasons.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to coach Deshaun,” Stefanski said in a statement. “He is ready to put in the hard work needed to help our team improve and make a positive impact in our community.”
Watson will replace former first-overall draft pick Baker Mayfield, a four-year starter who has one year remaining on his rookie contract. He’s expected to be traded.
The Browns also announced a trade of backup QB Case Keenum to Buffalo for a 2022 seventh-round draft pick. It’s also noted that veteran backup Jacoby Brissett reached an agreement with Cleveland and figures to serve as Watson’s backup.