Browns: Tease QB Move Amid Deshaun Watson Uncertainty

The Cleveland Browns are expecting a big season out of Deshaun Watson when he returns from injury next season but will still be adding some extra insurance.

Watson was available for just six games last season. He dealt with two separate shoulder injuries, the second knocking him out for the season. Watson suffered a broken bone in his shoulder against the Baltimore Ravens on November 12 that required surgery.

The Browns learned the value of a capable backup, cycling through four quarterbacks with Watson sidelined. PJ Walker, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Jeff Driskel and Joe Flacco all drew starts.

Watson is expected to be ready to roll for the start of next season and Thompson-Robinson will return for his second year. But the Browns plan to carry three quarterbacks next season, per general manager Andrew Berry.

“In terms of the quarterback room, we’ve always valued the quarterback position and I think probably if you look at our history over the last four seasons, we’ve always been towards the top of the league in backup quarterback expenditures or resources,” Berry said on Monday, January 22. “Whether it was Case (Keenum) for the first two years, obviously Jacoby (Brisset) last year and then even this year coming into the year with (Josh) Dobbs and Dorian. So it’s something I believe that backup quarterback really is a top 30 position on the roster and we do believe in carrying three, and that’s something that we’ll probably do moving forward.”

The simplest solution for the Browns would be bringing Flacco back next season as Watson’s backup. Flacco went 4-1 in his regular-season starts, helping the Browns lock up a playoff spot.

Flacco was the feel-good story of the season but the 39-year-old went out with a thud. He tossed a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns during Cleveland’s 45-14 loss to the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round.

Despite Flacco’s rough outing in the postseason, he sparked the Browns’ offense. In all, he passed for 1,616 yards, 13 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, posting a QB rating of 90.2.

The Browns are open to bringing Flacco back but Berry acknowledged there are multiple factors at play.

“Weʻd absolutely love to have Joe back. He’s a good quarterback, but I guess, maybe a little bit similar to Jacoby [Brissett] last year, it depends, right?” Berry said. “I want to bring all of our good players back, but there are constraints to that on really kind of both sides of the aisle, but would have no problem having Joe back.”

Berry noted that he has given “zero consideration” to the idea that bringing Flacco back could cause any kind of tension in the QB room.

Cleveland gave up three first-round picks, along with a third-round pick and a fourth-round pick. The Browns also signed him to an unprecedented $230 million fully guaranteed deal after the move.

Through two seasons, Watson has appeared in 12 games for the Browns. He missed the majority of the 2022-23 season serving an 11-game suspension. Currently, it’s looked like a tough deal for the Browns.

“We’d all love to have him on the field more often,” Berry said. “I think that’s safe to say, himself included.”

However, Berry did not dwell on that point. He also shared that he feels that Watson’s best days in Cleveland are ahead of him.

“I do feel really good about him, happy with the progress that he’s made within our organization, both on the field and off the field,” Berry said. “We’re looking forward to getting him back next year. We think he’s going to have a really big year and have a ton of confidence in him as our starting quarterback.”

Watson has gone 8-4 overall as the starter in Cleveland. He’s thrown for 2,217 yards, 14 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.

J.R. DeGroote covers the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Lakers for Heavy.com. He covered local and statewide sports as a reporter for West Hawaii Today and has decades of experience in digital media with previous stops at SB Nation and Bleacher Report. He has won multiple state, regional and national honors for sports reporting and photography. More about J.R. DeGroote

 

 

Gideon Canice

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