Deshaun Watson and the NFL’s Worst Contract Head to Injured Reserve

Watson, 28, has played in 12 games during the last three seasons

Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns.
Deshaun Watson has rarely taken the field for the Cleveland Browns.
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty

Drafted No. 1 overall by the St. Louis Rams in 2010, retired NFL quarterback Sam Bradford’s last legacy was his penchant for receiving paychecks that far exceeded his production. He ended up making about $1.44 million per game on average and walked away with more than $130 million for 83 career starts (34-48-1) during eight seasons.

Taken 12th overall by the Houston Texans in 2017, three-time Pro-Bowler Deshaun Watson is already approaching Bradford’s start total (65) but won’t be getting any closer this season — he’s headed to injured reserve and will immediately undergo season-ending surgery to repair a fracture in his throwing shoulder, the Cleveland Browns announced on Wednesday. Watson, who suffered the injury in the first half of Sunday’s 33-31 win over the Baltimore Ravens, is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for the start of the 2024 season.

What to expect from the 28-year-old after that is really anyone’s guess. He only played in 12 games during the course of the last three seasons because of a combination of injuries, NFL suspension and sitting out while waiting to be traded away from the Texans as sexual assault allegations whirled around him. Those allegations weren’t enough to stop the Browns from trading three first-round picks for Watson and giving him a five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million contract, the most guaranteed money in NFL history at the time.

What’s Up With Deshaun Watson and the Cleveland Browns?
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Watson will finish out the first two years of his contract with Cleveland having played in a dozen games at an average of $46 million per year. That means the Browns, who signed Watson knowing he would miss time last year because of suspension but had no reason to suspect he’d miss so many games this season, will have paid their quarterback $7.66 million per game for his play during two seasons. While earning his $92 million for two seasons of work, Watson has thrown 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions and compiled an 8-4 record.

Watson still has three seasons left to earn his money in Cleveland, but as of now, it appears the Browns are the proud owners of the worst deal in NFL history — they’ve effectively paid more than $61 million for the eight wins their franchise QB has delivered. Despite that massive gaffe, the Browns are in decent shape this season at 6-3 and now may turn back to backup PJ Walker as their starting quarterback.

Across five game appearances this season, Walker has completed 49% of his passes for 618 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions. Should Walker falter down the stretch, the Browns could turn to a free agent such as Colt McCoy, Joe Flacco or Nick Foles. Carson Wentz would have been an option, but the Rams signed him during their bye week as a potential replacement for oft-injured Matthew Stafford.

The Browns may choose to go another route as as Dorian Thompson-Robinson is expected to get the nod on Sunday. A preseason star, DTR started in Week 4 game against the Ravens and completed 17-of-30 passes for 130 yards with no touchdowns, and three interceptions in a 28-3 loss.

Currently the AFC’s No. 6 seed, the Browns host the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) on Sunday.

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