A lot of the success for the Cleveland Browns in the 2023 season is riding on quarterback Deshaun Watson. The franchise gave up a ton to acquire him from the Houston Texans, trading three first-round picks, a third and fourth-round pick to get a deal done. On top of that, the Browns agreed to the largest guaranteed contract in NFL history with him.
Thus far, the return on that investment has been negative. Watson played in only six games last season after serving an 11-game suspension and sitting out the entire 2021 campaign. The results were what you would expect for a player returning after a 23-month absence.
He completed 58.2 percent of his passes for 1,102 yards and seven touchdowns with five interceptions. The Browns went 3-3 in those games as he didn’t provide the spark the franchise was hoping he would. There was a lot of rust to knock off but the difference between this year and last is a “night and day difference” for him.
“I feel a lot better,” Watson said Tuesday at the team’s charity golf outing, via Dan Labbe of cleveland.com. “I mean, I think you guys can see it, too, in just the way I’m speaking, the way I kind of react with other people around here.”
Watson got himself into hot water off the field and had to face the consequences of his actions. Now that he has served his time, in the eyes of the league, he can focus solely on getting things back on track on the field.
“Last year was a weird situation where everything was new and a lot going on,” Watson said, “but having a fresh start, having a year behind me and being able to be around people that support me and love me for who I am is definitely great.”
Prior to missing 23 months, Watson was one of the brightest young stars in the NFL. He made the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons he was with the Texans, looking every part of a franchise quarterback. But, he no longer wanted to be with that franchise and forced his way out, landing in Cleveland.
Right now, there isn’t much noise being made about him or the Browns. Many are predicting they will finish last in the ultra-competitive AFC North that also includes the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers. But, if Watson can regain his form, the Browns will surprise some people.
“I’m very motivated,” Watson said. “I’m very excited to be able to have the opportunities to go out there and prove what I have before and even better. And that’s the goal, is to be better than when people last saw me.”
With an entire offseason to get back into rhythm and work with his teammates, things are looking up for the 2017 first-round pick out of Clemson. With a few more weapons added to the offense, the arrow is certainly pointing up for Watson and the Browns.