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'We have done extensive investigative work': Cleveland Browns make Deshaun Watson trade official

Browns Watson Football
Posted at 12:16 PM, Mar 20, 2022

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns have a new quarterback.

The team confirmed on Sunday that they traded three first-round draft picks, a third-round draft pick in 2023 and a fourth-round draft pick in 2024 with the Houston Texans for quarterback Deshaun Watson and a fifth-round pick in 2024.

Watson has played in three Pro Bowls and led the NFL in passing yards in 2020 with 4,823.

He recorded the highest completion percentage in NFL history at 67.8% among all players with at least 1,500 passing attempts.

Watson was drafted by the Texans in the first round in 2017.

While Watson is proven on the football field, he is currently facing 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 a grand jury's decision to not indict 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.

The trade has been controversial amongst Browns fans, but owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said they did extensive research on Watson before making the decision to go after him.

They released the following statement on the trade:

“We spent a tremendous amount of time exploring and investigating the opportunity to trade for Deshaun Watson. We are acutely aware and empathetic to the highly personal sentiments expressed about this decision. Our team’s comprehensive evaluation process was of utmost importance due to the sensitive nature of his situation and the complex factors involved. We also understand there are still some legal proceedings that are ongoing and we will respect due process. It was pivotal that we, along with Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski, meet with Deshaun to have a straightforward dialogue, discuss our priorities, and hear directly from him on how he wants to approach his career on and off the field. He was humble, sincere, and candid. In our conversations, Deshaun detailed his commitment to leading our team; he understands and embraces the hard work needed to build his name both in the community and on the field. Those in-depth conversations, the extensive evaluation process, his dedication to being a great teammate and devotion to helping others within the NFL, within the community, and through his charitable initiatives provided the foundation for us to pursue Deshaun. We are confident in Deshaun and excited about moving forward with him as our quarterback and supporting his genuine and determined efforts.”

The Browns had been deeply pursuing Watson last week, sending top staff including owner Jimmy Haslam, general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski to Houston on Tuesday to meet with Watson.

While the Browns statements detail an extensive investigation into Watson's legal situation, not only last week but over several months, Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing the women who filed the civil lawsuits against Watson, believes the organization should have reached out to him as part of their research but failed to do so.

"The Browns organization did not reach out to me or my clients. I didn’t expect them to do so, and can understand why they didn’t. But, knowing what I know, they probably should have," Buzbee said.

Still, the Browns believed what they learned was enough to feel confident about moving forward with Watson as the new franchise quarterback.

Berry released the following statement on the trade:

“We look forward to having Deshaun as our starting quarterback. We have done extensive investigative, legal and reference work over the past several months to provide us with the appropriate information needed to make an informed decision about pursuing him and moving forward with him as our quarterback. Deshaun has been among the very best at the position and he understands the work needed to re-establish himself on and off the field in Cleveland. We are confident that he will make positive contributions to our team and community as we support his return to football.”

Stefanski said he believes that Watson is ready to put in the hard work as a member of the Browns. He released the following statement:

“Our organization did a tremendous amount of background on Deshaun. We understand the concerns and questions that exist but are confident in the extensive work Andrew and his staff have done to feel confident about him joining our organization. It was important for us to meet with Deshaun in person as part of our team’s evaluation process, we had a candid conversation regarding his approach to coming into our organization and community. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to coach Deshaun, he is ready to put in the hard work needed to help our team improve and make a positive impact in our community.”

RELATED: Texans QB Deshaun Watson changes his mind, will waive no-trade clause and sign with Browns