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At what price? Deshaun Watson trade might cost Cleveland Browns more than money, draft picks

In 2021, the Browns signed defensive tackle Malik McDowell, a second-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2017. In 2019, McDowell was charged in Michigan with driving while impaired, obstructing justice and assaulting a police officer. Video showed McDowell fighting with police even after they stunned him with a Taser following a DUI stop. Two months later, he was found in possession of a stolen truck, leading to another charge of receiving and concealing stolen property. He was sentenced to 11 months in jail and three years’ probation after pleading guilty to the series of crimes.

McDowell won a starting job on the Browns out of training camp and emerged into a stalwart on the Cleveland defensive line. But in January, he was arrested on charges of aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence and public exposure in Florida. McDowell is unlikely to return to the Browns this season.

As far as Watson is concerned, the Browns must have believed the risk was worth it. The team has not publicly talked about the trade.

If Watson is disciplined, though, it won’t cost him much financially. ESPN confirmed Watson’s new $230 million contract with Cleveland will include only $1 million in base salary for the first year. In other words, if Watson is suspended, he would lose less than $60,000 per game lost.

That the Browns even agreed to a contract structure explicitly intended to circumvent NFL enforcement only underscored their desperation further.

The public relations damage is already done. The Browns not only signed Watson despite his ongoing legal issues, but they gave him a raise. It’s sure to be a polarizing decision among their fan base with risk to the image and reputation of the Browns, including owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski.metasports

On the field, the Browns have forfeited much of their ability to upgrade their roster with high-end talent in the draft going forward after trading their first-round picks in 2022, 2023 and 2024, as well as a 2023 third-round pick and a 2024 fourth-round pick. The Browns did receive a 2024 fifth-round pick in return. The loss of picks especially stings considering how well Berry has drafted in two years as Cleveland’s general manager.