CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns are out of the running to acquire Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who met with the team earlier this week in Houston, a league source confirmed to News 5.
Top Browns staff, including owner Jimmy Haslam, general manager Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski had flown out to Houston on Tuesday to meet with Watson after the quarterback's deposition.
Watson's deposition comes after a grand jury declined to indict him following a police investigation following the filing of 22 civil lawsuits filed by women alleging sexual misconduct. Some of the women in the lawsuit allege Watson exposed himself, purposely touched their hands with his genitals, or forcefully tried to kiss them and perform other sexual acts during separate massage sessions.
While the grand jury's decision meant no criminal charges for Watson at the moment, new evidence could be presented to the grand jury to change that as his depositions continue. In addition to the legal battle ahead of him, Watson also faces possible discipline by the NFL, which could include suspension. That remains to be seen.
Watson had previously met with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers, and had a meeting with the Atlanta Falcons the day after meeting with the Browns.
Berry and the organization have been very clear about their intent to explore every avenue, not just at the clear needs like a receiver and along the defensive line, but even in the murkier positions like quarterback, evaluating Baker Mayfield's position with due diligence.
The team had to deliver a trade pitch to the Texans to get the meeting with Watson, but the offer was just one part of the process. The Browns flew out to meet with Watson to see if Cleveland was a place he'd want to play, considering to acquire him he would have to waive his no-trade clause.
Watson is not a cold-weather quarterback, and that may have been the biggest factor in his decision. After taking Wednesday to think about his choices, the Browns were informed Thursday morning that they were out of the running.
The news may be a sense of relief to many Browns fans, as a poll held on the News 5 website showed a majority of Browns fans preferred the team not land Watson, with 57% opposed to getting him and 42% for the move.
Now, with Watson out of the conversation, the Browns have more work to do. The team will need to either work to repair the relationship with Mayfield, who posted an emotional letter to social media Tuesday thanking the city and fans for supporting him amid his uncertain future, or look elsewhere to replace him. 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo may be a name the Browns explore moving forward if the fracture between Mayfield and the organization has become a full break.
Can Mayfield show maturity after the process and focus on working to improve with the Browns this season? Will the relationships that faced strain last season in the locker room and within the coaching staff be able to be mended? Or is it all too far gone and irreparable?
Only time will tell, and with the draft approaching and season drawing nearer, that time seems to be quickly running out.
RELATED: Browns to meet Texans QB Deshaun Watson after his deposition over alleged sexual misconduct
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