The Cleveland Browns have proven that they are ready for the next chapter of their campaign in the National Football League (NFL) after they traded quarterback Baker Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday.
But the Browns will also have to deal with the situation surrounding their current quarterback Deshaun Watson, who faced multiple sexual misconduct lawsuits after he was acquired from the Houston Texans in March.
Let’s explore what lies ahead for the post-Mayfield era in Cleveland and how Watson’s uncertain future will cast a shadow on the Browns’ preparations for the coming 2022-23 NFL season.
BROWNS RELIEVED AS MAYFIELD ON THE MOVE
The Browns may have removed an emotional sting that lasted since the start of the off-season after finally unloading Mayfield despite the uncertainty surrounding Watson’s future.
Mayfield, who will receive $10.5 million from the Browns this season, will then get $5 million from the Panthers under the terms of the deal.
As Mayfield battles for 2018 No.3 overall pick Sam Darenold as the Panthers’ starting quarterback next season, the Browns ponder their options of keeping Watson amid the possibility that he gets suspended under the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
LAWSUIT SETTLEMENTS MIGHT NOT BE ENOUGH
Watson’s lawyers have been successful in settling 20 of the 24 civil lawsuits filed by several women against their client for sexual assault and harassment.
But Watson’s actions at massage sessions that involved the women may have caught up with him if the NFL pushes through with a suspension that could last for months or an entire season.
An NFL official told The Associated Press that “settling doesn’t give someone a pass,” which signals an uncertain campaign for the Browns without a capable quarterback to replace Mayfield if Watson gets suspended.
BRISSETT SHOULD STEP UP IF WATSON’S SUSPENSION IMMINENT
Cleveland made a backup plan after signing up veteran Jacoby Brissett, assuring the Browns of another quarterback if Watson does get suspended.
But Browns’ owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam are so far standing by with Watson, whom they met privately at the height of the lawsuits that were exposed to the public.
The Browns also have Joshua Dobbs as another quarterback, but he might be rusty as he last played for the Pittsburgh Steelers between 2018 and 2020.
NEWTON, GLENNON STILL AVAILABLE FOR BROWNS
Cleveland may be confident to push through next season with Watson, Brissett, and Dobbs comprising its quarterback line. But the Browns can still look elsewhere.
Among the notable available names in the market is former NFL MVP Cam Newton, who remains a free agent.
There are also the likes of Mike Glennon, Jets backup Mike White and Sam Darnold who can provide depth to Cleveland should the team seeks to go on a deep run to the playoffs.
Either way, the Browns still have the pieces to compete in the next season. With sound coaching and chemistry to integrate between the newcomers and the veterans, the Browns may still emerge as the better team without Mayfield.