Joe Flacco's performance raises questions about the value of Deshaun Watson's record-breaking contract

Is Joe Flacco’s performance through two games a cause for concern surrounding Deshaun Watson and his massive contract? 
Cleveland Browns, Deshaun Watson
Cleveland Browns, Deshaun Watson / Michael Owens/GettyImages

In March of 2022, the Cleveland Browns traded a 2022 first-round pick (No. 13 overall), 2023 and 2024 first-round picks, a 2022 fourth-round pick, a third-round pick in 2023, and a fourth-round pick in 2024 to the Houston Texans for Deshaun Watson and a 2024 sixth-round pick. Soon after the trade, the Browns and Watson agreed to a five-year, $230 Million fully guaranteed extension, the largest contract in NFL history at the time. 

After serving his 11-game suspension for breaking the NFL’s code of conduct, Watson made his Browns debut, his first game in over 700 days, on December 4th, 2022 against the Texans, his former team. Watson finished the game going 12/22 for 131 yards and one interception. Many fans had faith that Watson would shake the rust off in 2022 and head into 2023 relaxed and ready to bring the organization a winning season.

Watson’s 2023 season did not go as planned, losing his star running back just one and a half games into the year, suffering a shoulder injury in Week 3, spending time on and off the injury report, and requiring season-ending shoulder surgery after defeating the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9.

Deshaun Watson 2022:

  • 6 Games (3-3)
  • 99/170 (58.2 Completion Percentage)  
  • 1,102 Passing Yards  
  • 7 Touchdowns 
  • 5 Interceptions 
  • 79.1 Quarterback Rating 
  • 36 Rushing Attempts 
  • 175 Rushing Yards 
  • 1 Rushing Touchdown
  • 1 Fumble 

Deshaun Watson 2023:

  • 6 Games (5-1)
  • 105/171 (61.40 Completion Percentage)
  • 1,115 Passing Yards 
  • 7 Touchdowns
  • 4 Interceptions 
  • 84.3 Quarterback Rating 
  • 26 Rushing Attempts 
  • 142 Rushing Yards 
  • 1 rushing Touchdown 
  • 5 Fumbles 

Following the devastating news that Watson would not return to the playing field for the remainder of the season, and Cleveland’s quarterback room lacking the veteran presence needed to finish out their playoff push, the Browns signed former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco to a one year, $370,800 contract on November 20th

Flacco made his first start for the Browns in Week 13, throwing for over 200 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception in his first start in just over 11 months. While Cleveland lost their second game in a row, the fans rallied around Flacco and his calm demeanor, calling for the 38-year-old to be the Browns starter moving forward.  

In Week 14, Flacco made his second start as a member of the Cleveland Browns, throwing for over 300 passing yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. The Browns defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars and moved closer to overtaking the 10-3 Ravens.

Joe Flacco 2023:

  • 2 Games (1-1)
  • 49/89 (55.06 Completeion Percentage) 
  • 565 Passing Yards 
  • 5 Touchdowns 
  • 2 Interceptions 
  • 83.8 Quarterback Rating   
  • 4 Rushing Attempts 
  • -1 Rushing Yards 
  • 1 Fumble 

In two games with the Browns, Joe Flacco is just two touchdowns shy of matching Watson’s seven touchdowns in each of his seasons with Cleveland. Flacco’s 565 passing yards are also more than halfway to passing Watson’s passing yards from each season with the Browns as well. 

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While these numbers can be debated due to Watson's injury this year and his absence from the game before the 2022 season, they still bring up the 'what ifs' surrounding Watson, his contract, and the future of the Browns.

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