Deshaun Watson contract with Browns resets the quarterback market

Deshaun Watson after Browns trade

The Deshaun Watson trade has rocked the NFL in many ways. After a grand jury in Texas decided against indicting Watson, the Browns won a bidding war to acquire the talented quarterback, and secured the deal with a fully-guaranteed contract for $230 million.

There was already plenty of controversy around any trade for Watson with 22 pending civil lawsuits, but the guaranteed money made the move even more controversial. NFL teams avoid large guarantees, and this contract blew away the guarantees given to other top quarterbacks. The fact that Watson, with all his legal troubles, was the recipient of this contract made it even worse for many. People will have different reactions to the Browns trading for someone saddled with these allegations, but the monetary award made it worse for many fans who felt that the Browns and the NFL were rewarding bad behavior.

But other NFL owners have also been complaining. They know that the Browns have turned the market upside down and that they will ultimately need to consider similar deals if they’re fortunate to land a top-tier quarterback. Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti was vocal in his displeasure, not that the Browns or their fans give a damn what the owner of the Ravens thinks about this. The Ravens will have to pay Lamar Jackson, and Browns fans will be happy to see that franchise also saddled with a monster, guaranteed contract, as most Browns fans see Jackson as a more limited quarterback than Watson.

And that leads us to the real issue here. The game in the NFL has been changing as the rules make it easier and easier for elite quarterbacks to dominate the game. Sure, defenses can still make a difference, but a team’s chances of winning a Super Bowl are very low without one of the 8 – 10 elite quarterbacks in the game.

Just look at the Browns. Baker Mayfield had helped to resurrect the franchise and won a playoff game in the 2020 season, but the Browns front office realized that Baker wasn’t elite. He’s a decent NFL starter, but he needed an elite roster around him to compete at the highest levels. Paying Baker big money would have been an anchor on the franchise. You can’t be successful with a big part of the salary cap reserved for an average quarterback.

In this evolving landscape, elite quarterbacks have much more negotiating leverage. The Watson contract is inevitable, and the Browns are ahead of the curve here. You’re going to see all of the top quarterbacks getting fully-guaranteed deals in the near future. It happened in this instance because it’s so rare for a top quarterback to become available before the age of 27. This was a rare opportunity, irrespective of the legal issues, and the resulting bidding war is a logical result of the situation.

Bisciotti and the Ravens brain trust can’t be happy as they probably realize that Jackson is an elite player but not necessarily an elite quarterback. He’s so talented that he can literally take over a game. But he’s inconsistent, and his “hero ball” approach to the game leads to bad habits and disastrous results. It will be fascinating to see what contract he goes for.

As for the rest of the NFL, things will start to look a little more like the NBA, with star quarterbacks, and sometimes star receivers, setting the market and insisting on guarantees. Elite quarterback play and explosive plays now dominate the NFL, and the financial terms of NFL contracts are now starting to catch up.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>