Deshaun Watson has made up his mind.
In a stunning reversal Friday, the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback for the Houston Texans informed the Cleveland Browns he wants to play for them and will waive his no-trade clause in a deal, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity. The person spoke on condition of anonymity due to the fluidity of the situation.
The Browns and Texans subsequently worked out a trade package in which Houston will receive three first-round selections as well as a third-round pick and a late-round pick swap, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported.
Watson later confirmed the news on Instagram, writing: “Cleveland, LETSSSS GOOOO!! 😤 #DawgPound Ready To Work!”
Watson will receive a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract from the Browns as part of the deal, according to multiple reports. The guarantee breaks the previous high for an NFL contract, which was set by Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen in August 2021 with $150 million.
Watson, 26, sat out all of last season amid his trade demand from the Texans and series of allegations of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions, including 22 civil lawsuits. A grand jury opted last Friday not to indict Watson on any of the nine criminal complaints against him.
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By Monday, several teams had already lined up as suitors for the quarterback, who has a no-trade clause in his contract, allowing him to deny any destination not to his liking. The Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns all met with Watson this week, with the Saints meeting with him for a second time Wednesday. His camp informed the Browns on Thursday that they were no longer under consideration, a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to divulge details about Watson’s process.
By Friday, however, Watson had apparently reversed course.
Watson still could face a suspension from the NFL under the league’s personal conduct policy, and the 22 civil lawsuits are still pending.
The Browns’ pursuit of Watson prompted quarterback Baker Mayfield to request a trade from the team on Thursday, when it appeared the team was out of the running for the signal-caller’s services.
“It’s in the mutual interest of both sides for us to move on,” Mayfield told ESPN. “The relationship is too far gone to mend. It’s in the best interests of both sides to move on.”
The Browns initially made it clear that they would not grant Mayfield’s request, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports. With Watson in the fold, however, the former No. 1 pick – and his fully guaranteed $18.858 million salary – would appear to be superfluous for Cleveland.
Mayfield is not expected to be part of the trade with the Texans, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported, and instead would be moved in a separate deal.
Watson will face his former team at some point in 2022, when the Texans are scheduled to play host to the Browns.