Editor’s Note: This story contains reports of sexual assault. If you or someone you know is a survivor of assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at: 1-800-656-4673 or at https://www.rainn.org.
Since Cleveland traded for quarterback Deshaun Watson nearly two weeks ago, the franchise has faced criticism for signing the three-time Pro Bowler. However, Browns general manager Andrew Berry told reporters at NFL owners’ meetings on Tuesday that he regrets the way the trade took place.
Berry, steadfast at the idea of being able to communicate with his player, coaches and staff, met with Baker Mayfield’s agent at the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this month and stated that the organization was looking into other signal-callers. Berry, however, did not tell Mayfield’s agent that he was meeting with Watson in Houston on March 15, three days before the organization traded for the former Texan quarterback.
Berry said it’s the one thing he wished he’d done differently in the blockbuster trade process.
“If there is probably one thing I would regret or go back” [and do] otherwise, when? [Mayfield] was informed that we were one of the teams Deshaun wanted to meet, we paid a visit late Monday night,” he told USA Today. “I had put out a call for Baker’s representation the next morning. The news came out before I could call.
“You always hate that kind of situation because it gives the impression of — you never want anyone to find out about that situation. That’s the only thing I wish I’d done a little differently.”
By the time Berry, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski and owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam returned to Cleveland after meeting Watson, Mayfield had already written a heartfelt letter thanking fans for supporting him as Browns quarterback. A few days later, Mayfield asked for a trade, and the next day Browns acquired Watson from Houston.
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Watson signed a $230 million five-year deal that is fully guaranteed, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN† However, under his new deal, Watson will lose just $55,556 for every game he’s suspended. By comparison, the quarterback’s contract with the Texans saw him lose $1.94 million for every game he was suspended, per Illustrated Sports‘s Albert Breer† Watson’s base salary is just $1 million in 2022, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
The Browns introduced Watson as the team’s quarterback at a news conference Friday after a grand jury in Harris County, Texas, returned nine “no” bills on nine criminal charges against Watson. Then a second grand jury in Brazoria County declined to indict Watson on a tenth count.
However, Watson is still facing 22 active civil lawsuits detailing sexual harassment and assault that took place during massage therapy sessions.
These accounts range from Watson refusing to cover his genitals to ‘touching’ [a plaintiff] with his penis and tried to force her to have oral sex with him.” According to Jenny Vrentas from The New York Times† the criminal charges he faced previously involved similar descriptions, including Watson ejaculating on them and other forms of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault.
Berry also stated several times during the press conference that Watson and his affairs were a “five-month odyssey”. The Browns used private investigators and outside legal counsel to learn more about the cases, but did not speak to prosecutors.
Watson denied assaulting, harassing or disrespecting any woman during the press conference.
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