Fruit that’s fallen from Bill Belichick’s Tree hasn’t often had it so sweet. That goes for coaches and -- to a lesser extent -- personnel members.
But going forward, let the record show that Texans GM Nick Caserio wound up on the winning side of what will probably be the most lopsided trade in NFL history.
Dealing quarterback Deshaun Watson for SIX picks (including three first-rounders) after Watson made it clear he’d never play in Houston again and was battling two-dozen lawsuits from women alleging sexual misconduct? That’s like somebody taking a lit stick of dynamite out of your hand and paying you for the chance to do it.
The Watson situation continued to unfold over the weekend with the NFL reportedly pushing for an indefinite suspension that will last at least a year.
The reasoning behind that, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, is the two-year statute of limitations for accusations will expire in March of 2023. That presumes Watson’s behavior ceased when the first lawsuit was filed in March 2021. So, unlike the Ben Roethlisberger situation in 2010 when the league handed down a six-game suspension and reduced it to four for “good behavior”, there will likely be no reduction for Watson.
The optics of Watson playing in the league are bad enough given the avalanche of accusations. Allowing him to come back this season with the specter of new allegations arising and discipline having to be re-imposed would treble the damage.
So Watson, to whom the Browns incomprehensibly gave the most lucrative and iron-clad contract in NFL history -- a fully-guaranteed, five-year, $230 million pact -- will likely sit out for the second consecutive season. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s fully alienated their functional former starter, Baker Mayfield, with the pursuit and signing of Watson.
Now Mayfield and his $19 million salary are still on the books but not taking part in anything by mutual agreement. The Browns can’t find a trade partner for Mayfield at that salary and -- ultimately -- will probably have to release him and turn the team over to Jacoby Brissett.
But back to Caserio for a moment. Remember, it was his hiring in Houston that prompted Watson to begin his wildcat strike. Watson was "furious" he wasn’t consulted during the GM search and the Caserio/Jack Easterby coalition in the front office caused Watson to start a holdout despite having just agreed to a four-year $160M extension months earlier.
Caserio played poker throughout. Even when the accusations against Watson started pouring in, Caserio didn’t sell off his weird and distressed asset for peanuts (Watson also had a no-trade clause so that factored in). For all the slings and arrows absorbed by the Texans and all the pointing and laughing we’ve all done, Caserio negotiated the Watson situation more adeptly than anyone ever could have predicted.
Meanwhile, ripple effects from Cleveland’s situation are felt here in New England. First, it’s very unlikely Watson will be on the field when the Browns and Patriots play October 16. That will make life easier for the Patriots that day. Additionally, though, the Browns’ near-constant state of disarray helps the Patriots in the AFC.
In the not-too-distant past, the Patriots didn’t have to worry what was going on with middle-class teams in their conference. New England was gazing down on everyone. Now, the Patriots are one of the crabs in the bucket along with Cleveland, Miami, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Denver, Indy, etc.
When bad news hits those teams, prayers up, but that’s good news in New England. The Browns practically have a bad news assembly line up and running.
Since 2000 when they drafted Spergon Wynn ahead of Tom Brady, they’ve had 33 different starters at the position. Mayfield, DeShone Kizer and Johnny Manziel were taken with the first, 22nd and 52nd picks in the draft in the past decade. Compared to the other two, Mayfield was a Hall of Famer. Now he’ll be out. Watson -- the human millstone -- will one day be in. And former Browns coach Bill Belichick will be forever happy at the way life turned out.