BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns called their search and investigation of Deshaun Watson, including the allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct against him, “extensive” in a statement released Sunday by the team announcing the exchange.
“We fully appreciate and empathize with the very personal feelings being expressed about this decision,” Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam said in a statement. “Our team’s comprehensive assessment process was of the utmost importance due to the sensitive nature of their situation and the complex factors involved. We also understand that there are still ongoing legal proceedings and we will respect due process. regular.
“It was essential that we, along with Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski, meet Deshaun to have a direct dialogue, discuss our priorities and hear directly from him how he wants to approach his career on and off the pitch. He was humble, sincere and In our conversations, Deshaun detailed his commitment to leading our team; he understands and embraces the hard work it takes to build his name both in the community and on the pitch. … We have faith in Deshaun and are thrilled to move forward with him as a quarterback and support his sincere and determined efforts.’
On Friday, the Browns acquired Watson from the Houston Texans. Cleveland traded their 2022, 2023 and 2024 first-round picks, along with two other picks, as part of the deal. The Browns also gave Watson a new five-year contract worth $230 million guaranteed, the most guaranteed money on a single contract in NFL history at $80 million.
Unlike the Texans, who announced the trade shortly after his deal on Friday, the Browns waited two days before publicly acknowledging it.
“We have done extensive investigative, legal and reference work over the past few months to provide us with the appropriate information needed to make an informed decision on whether to prosecute him and move forward with him as a quarterback- back,” Browns general manager Andrew Berry said in a statement. declaration. “Deshaun has been among the best in this role and understands the work it takes to recover on and off the court in Cleveland. We are confident he will make positive contributions to our team and our community as we support his back to football.”
The Browns did not provide details of their investigation. They also haven’t spoken to any of the 22 women who filed civil lawsuits against Watson and accused him of sexual assault and sexual misconduct, according to their attorney.
“The Browns organization didn’t contact me. I didn’t expect them to and I can understand why they didn’t. But, knowing what I know, they probably would have had to do it,” attorney Tony Buzbee told ESPN.
The NFL could suspend Watson for a minimum of six games through its code of conduct policy for sexual assault violations. The league confirmed in a statement that any trade would have “no effect on the NFL’s ongoing and thorough investigation into the serious allegations against Watson. If the league’s investigation determines that Watson has violated the conduct policy personnel, disciplinary measures may be imposed in accordance with the policy.”
A league source told ESPN, however, that under Watson’s new contract, he will only earn $1 million on his base salary for 2022. That means if he is suspended by the NFL for violating his sexual assault code of conduct, he would lose less than $60,000 per game lost.
Cleveland’s trade announcement came just nine days after a Texas grand jury declined to indict Watson on criminal charges following a police investigation sparked by the civil lawsuits. The allegations in the lawsuits ranged from touching women with her genitals to forced oral sex. Eight of the women who prosecuted Watson filed criminal complaints against him with Houston police and were due to appear before the grand jury.
Two other women who did not prosecute Watson also filed complaints with the police.
The Browns met with Watson in Houston on Tuesday, shortly after answering questions under oath in depositions related to the civil suits.
On Thursday, the Browns were informed that they were no longer in contention for Watson. But on Friday, he had a change of heart and agreed to waive his no-trade clause to come to Cleveland.
“Our organization has had a tremendous amount of experience on Deshaun,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said in a statement. “We understand the concerns and questions that exist, but we are confident in the tremendous work that Andrew and his staff have done to feel confident about his arrival in our organization. It was important for us to meet Deshaun in person in As part of our team evaluation process, we had a candid conversation regarding his approach to entering our organization and our community. I look forward to the opportunity to coach Deshaun, he is ready to do the hard work needed to help our team improve and make a positive impact in our community.”
ESPN’s Sarah Barshop contributed to this report.