CLEVELAND (AP) — When owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam returned from Houston in March with Deshaun Watson under contract, the Browns’ long search for a franchise quarterback — a fruitless 20-year odyssey — seemed over.
Nothing has changed.
Cleveland is confused. Again.
The NFL’s decision to appeal the six-game suspension for Watson, handed down by independent arbitrator Sue L. Robinson, who found that he violated the league’s personal conduct policy, has left the Browns in the dark and may consider other QB options for the 2022 season.
An appeal hearing will follow. There is also the possibility of a settlement or lawsuits followed by a lengthy lawsuit.
Just days ago, the Browns, who started with 32 quarterbacks since their rebirth in 1999 with 32 quarterbacks and traded former No. 1 overall pick and four-year starter Baker Mayfield to Carolina last month, were willing to pay minus Watson for less than half of this season.
Now it is likely that he will be out for much longer, and there is no telling when Watson will be back on the field.
With a talented, ready-made roster, the Browns were ready to battle for the AFC title with Watson. They won’t do that without him.
Coach Kevin Stefanski has insisted that Jacoby Brissett, who has made 37 starts as a pro and has been something of a supersub during previous stops in New England, Indianapolis and Miami, would be the starter if Watson was suspended.
However, that was before it became clear that Watson’s suspension will last longer. On Thursday, Commissioner Roger Goodell chose former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey, with an extensive background in competition matters, to have the final say on Watson’s discipline.
While Brissett is a solid placeholder and could probably win some early games, especially with Cleveland’s schedule loaded up front with softer opponents, he’s not a full-season replacement for a team capable of a deep playoff. run, when the Browns would take on some of the conference’s elite QBs.
The clock is ticking for the Browns.
They can’t afford to throw away a season with the defensive end of star Myles Garret and Pro Bowl running Nick Chubb back into their prime, two-time All-Pro right tackling Jack Conklin in his final year under contract and Jadeveon Clowney only terminates on a one-year deal.
They sit in their winning window.
So, while Cleveland’s players had Thursday off during their second week of training camp, some of the conversation within team headquarters could certainly have resulted in whether or not to make a move for another QB.
The Browns recently recruited veteran Josh Rosen to give them more depth along with Josh Dobbs, but neither of them seem ready to take over in the event Brissett goes down and neither has been impressive in the game so far. camp.
Jimmy Garoppolo’s unfolding situation in San Francisco is worth watching. With the 49ers committed to Trey Lance as a starter, Garoppolo, who was previously linked with the Browns, could be an option.
The Browns are unlikely to trade for Garoppolo, but general manager Andrew Berry would jump at the chance to sign him if San Francisco waives the 30-year-old to avoid paying him $24.2 million this season.
Garoppolo is a proven winner (33-14 as a starter), could be an upgrade over Brissett and could be a bridge to Watson’s return.
This week marks 10 years since the Haslams agreed to buy Randy Lerner’s Browns for $1.05 billion. It has been a bleak decade with many failures and almost constant turmoil and turnover.
They have hired five full-time coaches and five GMs. The Browns have only gone 52-108-1 and had one winning season in the Haslams tenure. There was also the failed Johnny Manziel experiment, a 0-16 season and now the Watson saga.
It all looked so promising four months ago, when the Haslams met Watson and convinced him that Cleveland was where he belonged. They enticed him to waive his no-trade clause with a $230 million fully guaranteed five-year contract, a historic deal that didn’t sit well with their NFL peers.
It was risky.
It doesn’t seem sensible at the moment.
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