Did the Browns have to put Deshaun Watson's guaranteed money into escrow?

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers
Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

It caused so much outrage. Guaranteeing a contract to quarterback Deshaun Watson has been heralded with the coming of the end of the NFL, the United States of America, and the harbinger of the Apocalypse. Never has there been such an outrage in the NFL against owners actually paying players. But was it all lies?

The Cleveland Browns may not have put the guaranteed portion of quarterback Deshaun Watson's contract into escrow. The escrow payment has been the rallying cry against guaranteed contracts for NFL players. Instead, it seems the escrow payment is another of the owner's shenanigans to collude against players.

Mike Florio of ProFootball talk, dropped a bombshell in a recent article saying that the NFL owners may not be required to deposit guaranteed money in a separate escrow account.

"The section on “Funding of Deferred and Guaranteed Contracts” appears at page 178 of the CBA. It begins like this: “The NFL may require that by a prescribed date certain, each Club must deposit into a segregated account . . . .” One of the first things they teach you in law school is the difference between the words “may” and “shall.” The first is permissive. The second is mandatory. So if it’s “may,” it’s not required. The NFL doesn’t have to do it."

Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk

It was previously reported by Florio that the Browns would be required to deposit roughly $160 million into an escrow account to cover Watson's contract. But as of this writing, Florio states he has not heard from the league if the Browns were required to make the deposit.

The provision to put money into escrow was collectively bargained by the players as a hedge against owner insolvency (anyone's mind immediately think of Art Modell?). The provision was in place in case an owner went bankrupt and could not cover the contract.

The first question one has to ask, and credit Florio for asking it, is were the Browns required to deposit the money into escrow? Or did the NFL and NFLPA think the Haslam Sports Group was good for the money after all?

The language was added as a safeguard for the players against the owners. Ironic that the owners have pointed to that clause as a reason to not guarantee contracts to players. It makes one wonder what the following Tweet is really about.

Such a new revelation makes a Browns fan wonder, what are the owners really upset about with Watson's contract? If they don't have to front the guaranteed money (assuming all parties believe they can cover the contract), then what is the issue?

Assuming, as all Browns fans should, that the pervading narrative about Watson's moral issues is a smokescreen to hide the real issue, it would seem that the supposedly cash-strapped billionaire owners are simply using the moral outrage over Watson to stave off having to actually pay a guaranteed contract to their employees, as every other major professional sport does.

Cleveland didn't break the quarterback market because it's not broken. The free agency market is working just fine, except that NFL owners don't like its direction. Now they are using your moral sympathies and outrage as justification for refusing to pay players market value thereby lining their pockets. The rich get richer.

The Browns didn't break free agency or interfere with Lamar Jackson's contract issues. The truth is the Ravens waited too long to extend Jackson. Now that Watson's contract is out there, the Ravens and other NFL owners want to reverse the market trends back in their favor.

As much as I want to believe the Browns were able to outsmart the NFL, it may be they paid the market price for a player. The other owners want to walk the market back by using faux moral outrage and fake financial crisis to accomplish their ends.

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