This year, the biggest NFL offseason storyline involves the Cleveland Browns’ quarterback situation as the club has question marks with two of its signal-callers.
While the Browns don’t have any control over the outcome of the league’s investigation into allegations of sexual assault or misconduct against Deshaun Watson, which resulted in 24 civil cases (20 of those settled) with two more to be filed, Cleveland holds the cards for Baker Mayfield’s future. With that said, one scenario has some impact on the other.
The Browns should be proactive in sorting out their quarterback plan for the 2022 season because the conclusion of Watson’s disciplinary hearing may put them in desperation mode.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson could come to a decision on Watson’s case within the next few weeks:
“Robinson has no track record of ruling on cases involving NFL players, though one source said her decision could come within a week but also might take until training camp. The NFL hopes for clarity on this case before training camp begins in late July.”
According to Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal, the league will push for “an indefinite suspension that would last no shorter than one year.”
Jacoby Brissett, whom the Browns signed to a one-year deal in March, will likely take over the huddle as a fill-in starter if necessary, per ESPN’s Jake Trotter (h/t Bleacher Report’s Rob Goldberg).
However, last week, Trotter floated out the idea that the team might try to acquire a quarterback in exchange for Mayfield:
“If Watson is in fact suspended, look for offseason addition Joshua Dobbs to join the active roster. But while Cleveland could ride the bulk of the season with Brissett as its starter in the event of a Watson suspension, the Browns could also look for another quarterback trade — Baker Mayfield for Jimmy Garoppolo, anyone? — to help the team tread water while Watson is out.”
Cleveland may need a new starter for an entire year, and if that’s the case, the coaching staff may want to see Brissett in a training camp battle for the starting job.
Whenever Watson takes the field, he’ll undoubtedly start. The Browns signed him to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million extension after they acquired him from the Houston Texans in March, but his uncertain short-term future creates some urgency to clear up question marks for the upcoming campaign, which leads us back to Mayfield.