Deshaun Watson walked through snow on the way to his first day of work with the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday. Baker Mayfield was nowhere in sight.
Watson reported to Cleveland’s voluntary offseason program to restart his career with the Browns, who mortgaged their short-term future by acquiring the quarterback accused of sexual assault in a trade last month.
With temperatures in the 30s and late-spring snow falling, the former Houston Texans quarterback arrived at the team’s facility in Berea, Ohio. The Browns posted a photo on Twitter of Watson, wearing a heavy winter jacket, before he entered the building.
QB☝️ in the building pic.twitter.com/LSdmL3nJGE
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) April 19, 2022
One of the reasons the three-time Pro Bowler and Georgia native, who played at Clemson in South Carolina, initially turned down the Browns in their pursuit before changing his mind was because of Northeast Ohio’s frigid, wintry weather. Watson lost the one game he played in Cleveland with the Texans as howling winds made it almost impossible to throw.
The move for Watson in effect ended quarterback Baker Mayfield’s four-year run with the Browns, who are looking to trade the 2018 No. 1 overall pick but are finding a limited market, partly because of his $18.8 million contract for next season.
Mayfield was not at the team’s offseason program as he continues to rehab his surgically repaired left shoulder. Mayfield got hurt in the Browns’ second game and his struggles throughout an 8-9 season convinced the team to look for another quarterback.
The team’s pursuit of Watson rankled Mayfield, who asked to be traded.
Last week, Mayfield said the team’s front office wasn’t truthful with him in explaining its offseason plans. Mayfield said he felt “disrespected” by the team and was looking forward to reviving his career elsewhere.
Desperate to find an elite quarterback, Cleveland traded three first-round draft picks and three other selections to the Texans in March for Watson, who faces 22 civil lawsuits from women accusing him of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct during massage therapy sessions.
Watson also may face discipline from the NFL, which is investigating whether he violated the league’s personal-conduct policy. It’s possible he’ll be suspended for part of the 2022 season.
The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback has professed his innocence. Two grand juries in Texas have declined to indict him on any criminal charges. However, Watson is still dealing with the civil cases and has been giving depositions in recent weeks.
The Browns did their own background check on Watson, and owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam felt so confident in the research — and after personally meeting with him — that they signed him to a fully guaranteed $230 million contract after he waived his no-trade clause to come to Cleveland.