The Cleveland Browns are getting ready for the start of free agency, and they're doing it with some help from their quarterback, Deshaun Watson.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Browns have restructured Watson's massive (and fully guaranteed) six-year, $230 million contract to give themselves more salary cap space for the upcoming season — nearly $36 million in cap space, to be more precise.
The #Browns have restructured QB Deshaun Watson’s contract, creating nearly $36M in cap space, source said. The cap conversion gives plenty of room for Cleveland to work in free agency.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 13, 2023
It was almost exactly a year ago when the Browns stunned the football world by trading for Watson and giving him a fully guaranteed contract, before the NFL had finished its investigation into the 20+ accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct against the QB. Watson was eventually suspended six games by Judge Sue Lewis Robinson, which was increased to 11 games on appeal. He made his Browns debut in Week 13.
Due to the allegations, Watson's debut with the Browns was his first game in almost two years (700 days to be exact). The Houston Texans, the team that drafted Watson in 2017, ruled him out for every game of the 2021 season for non-injury reasons.
With all that time not playing, it wasn't a surprise that Watson came out in 2022 looking like a shadow of himself. He'll probably look better when the 2023 season begins, but the Browns are focused on finding him more support on the field. Hence the need for more cap space this year.
To create the cap space, they had to add a void year at the end of his contract. So his cap hits for 2024-2026 are ... let's call them "interesting."
Deshaun Watson's cap conversion with the #Browns opens up $35,868,000 of space for 2023, adjusting his future cap hits to:
2027: $8.967M (void)https://t.co/L9KytIlCpt
— Spotrac (@spotrac) March 13, 2023
The Browns are are a big time NFL franchise, so we can assume they've seen those numbers and are fully aware of what they mean. (Probably.) And if they have restructured Watson's contract, they're presumably fine with it. They're the ones who made this bed, and now they have to sleep in it.