Deshaun Watson named the Browns biggest offseason red flag

Same as it ever was.
Cleveland Browns Mandatory Minicamp
Cleveland Browns Mandatory Minicamp / Nick Cammett/GettyImages

There's not much to say that hasn't already been said about Deshaun Watson. The Browns made him one of the highest paid QBs in NFL history, gave up a historically large haul to trade for him, and have unequivocally supported him during a turbulent tenure in Cleveland both on and off the field. And yet, strictly as a quarterback, Watson hasn't been remotely close to what was expected.

In his two years as the Browns' QB1, Watson has yet to play in more than 6 games in either season. He's 8-4 over that span, throwing for 2217 yards, 14 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. Last season – when the Browns still managed to make the playoffs without him – was the first time where it seemed like maybe Cleveland didn't need him nearly as badly as he needed Cleveland. And it's why, heading into 2024, his availability was CBS Sports' biggest Browns red flag of the season. Here's what they say:

Deshaun Watson named the Browns biggest offseason red flag

One of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL, Watson has played a grand total of 12 games the last three seasons. Surprisingly, Cleveland went 5-1 when he actually suited up as the starter in 2023, but it's anyone's guess how his surgically repaired shoulder will hold up for an otherwise playoff-ready squad.

Hard to argue with any of that. Everyone's optimistic about their season in late June, and maybe enough time has passed where his shoulder feels as good as it's felt in a few years. He's only 28, so it's not unrealistic to expect 3-4 season Pro Bowl caliber seasons from him if his health holds up. At this point, though, that's a big 'if.' On top of all that, it's not like this Browns defense is going to be as dominant as they are forever – their window is very clearly now, and so much of that window depends on Watson.

If this season looks anything like the last two, it's not unreasonable to think that this time next year, Watson's somewhere else. Then again, maybe the $120 million he'll count against the cap in 2025 and 2026 say otherwise.