The Browns acquiring Deshaun Watson via trade has become one of the most controversial moves in modern NFL history. The talented quarterback’s off-field issues have intensified since he chose Cleveland as his trade destination, but that choice did go a long way toward bringing Myles Garrett‘s 2021 edge-rushing sidekick back.
Jadeveon Clowney said Thursday that Watson’s decision made a significant impact on his own, indicating (via 92.3 The Fan’s Anthony Lima; video link) he would probably have joined the Falcons had Watson selected Atlanta as his next team. Prior to Clowney’s team-hopping run of recent years, he and Watson were Texans teammates from 2017-18.
Clowney and Watson spoke during the QB’s four-team trade sweepstakes, and Jake Trotter of ESPN.com notes (via Twitter) Clowney gave Cleveland a strong endorsement. While the $230MM guaranteed the Browns came back to the table with provided the clincher for the embattled passer, Clowney offering Browns praise provides some breadcrumbs ahead of the defensive end’s own decision.
“We stayed in touch through that whole thing about coming here,” Clowney said, via Chris Easterling of the Akron Beacon Journal. “If he come, then I come. I told him if he goes, I’ll follow him up here. I’ll go back. That’s what it came down to.”
A late-March report indicated Watson spoke with Jarvis Landry and Leonard Fournette about potentially playing together with the Falcons. Browns GM Andrew Berry‘s idea to fully guarantee Watson’s contract changed those plans, and the Falcons — who traded Matt Ryan shortly after Watson was dealt to the Browns — have shifted toward a full-scale rebuild.
Cleveland re-signed Clowney on a one-year, $10MM deal that features $9.25MM fully guaranteed. Garrett lobbied extensively to bring Clowney back. That stands to help the Browns’ defense, though the one-year commitment is interesting in this case. While Clowney’s injury history has damaged his hopes of scoring a long-term deal, Watson factoring into his free agency choice this year may provide a letdown. With the sixth-year veteran QB facing 24 civil lawsuits and counting, a lengthy suspension is expected. This Browns season stands to feature an extensive stretch in which Watson is away from the team, leading to Jacoby Brissett being favored to take many of the team’s snaps this year.
Watson potentially being ticketed to play a full season in 2023 could again influence Clowney’s next commitment. The injury-prone former No. 1 overall pick played 14 games last season, recording nine sacks. Another healthy season would increase Clowney’s market value in 2023, should he not sign a Browns extension before the next league year begins.