The wait is over. Through a process that resembled a version of The Bachelor, Deshaun Watson has finally decided to waive his no-trade clause to the Cleveland Browns.
Trade compensation still to be finalized with the #Texans, but Watson has made his choice: He expects to go to Cleveland.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 18, 2022
Not only the trade (which is rumored to involve at least five picks, including three first-rounders), Watson also is getting a new five-year extension, fully guaranteed.
Deshaun Watson Career Stats
No matter which way we look at things, Watson immediately becomes the best quarterback the Browns have had since their expansion return in 1999.
In the four seasons that Watson has played, he has been a top-six fantasy scorer on a per-game basis. Watson has averaged over 20 fantasy points per game in each of his four seasons in the league. Watson sat out of all the 2021 season, but when he was last on the field in 2020, he averaged a career-high 19.4 passing points per game and led the NFL in yards per pass attempt (8.9 Y/A) in a season where his surrounding cast was at its lowest of his career.
Watson is a talent in any scheme, but Kevin Stefanski will get him in a more favorable position to access the play-action game, something Watson has excelled at, but has not fully utilized since his rookie season. The Browns ranked 13th in the NFL in play-action rate (27.7%) over the past two seasons.
Deshaun Watson Career Play-Action Rate
Watson also should incentivize Cleveland to open the offense up more. Cleveland has ranked 27th (53.9%) and 29th (52.2%) in passing rate on offense. Cleveland has been extremely run-heavy near the end zone, ranking 29th in pass rate in the red zone (43.7%) over the past two seasons.
On the Cleveland side of things, everyone gets a lift. Cleveland just acquired Amari Cooper last week, who was set up to receive a significant downgrade in the offensive environment. That was short-lived as Watson’s leading wide receiver has ranked second, fourth, fourth, and eighth in points per game at the position.
Three of those seasons were from an apex version of DeAndre Hopkins, but Will Fuller also averaged 17.2 points per game in 2020 after Hopkins was traded and then Brandin Cooks caught 29 passes for 431 yards and three touchdowns the final four games of 2020 after Fuller was suspended.
David Njoku received the franchise tag coming off a career-high 13.2 yards per catch and 9.0 yards per target, while they also have a vertical option in Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Peoples-Jones was tasked as a lid lifter only in his extended run during his second season. Peoples-Jones has now averaged a robust 18.8 yards per catch on an average depth of target of 16.7 yards downfield. Peoples-Jones will still need some dominoes to fall in his favor to command targets but is set up to ballpark as Cleveland’s version of Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
We still should anticipate Watson may still yet face disciplinary action at the start of the 2022 season. Despite facing no criminal charges, a precedent has been set in these situations by the NFL. We will wait to see if they follow suit there, but when Watson is available to play, the tide is lifted here all around for the Cleveland offense.
For more NFL offseason coverage, be sure to check out: