Browns restructure Watson deal for free agency


CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Browns shifted some of the money they owe Deshaun Watson so they could spend more on players to help him.

The Browns restructured the quarterback’s record-setting $230 million contract to create salary-cap space ahead of NFL free agency, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Monday.

The Browns always have had the ability to convert Watson’s base salary ($46 million in 2023) to a signing bonus and created $36 million of room, according to the person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team is not publicly disclosing any information.

Teams may begin agreeing to contracts with free agents at noon. Following a 7-10 season, the Browns are expected to sign some defensive linemen and perhaps another wide receiver for Watson.

The restructuring was expected because it was the easiest way for the Browns to clear space after being roughly $14 million over the salary cap. General manager Andrew Berry recently said that the restructuring of Watson’s deal was “on the table.”

Berry had previously reworked kick returner Jakeem Grant Sr.’s contract and the Browns are releasing safety John Johnson III, who was entering the final season of a three-year, $33.75 million deal.

A three-time Pro Bowler, Watson initially rejected a trade from Houston to Cleveland a year ago but changed his mind after the Browns offered him a five-year, $230 million contract that was fully guaranteed.

The team was criticized for the deal given that Watson had been accused of sexual misconduct and harassment by 23 women in Texas. He has since settled 23 civil lawsuits brought by the massage therapists, who said the QB acted inappropriately during sessions.

Watson was suspended 11 games last season by the NFL for violating its personal conduct policy. He played in six games for Cleveland, posting a 3-3 record while looking rusty following a nearly two-year layoff.

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