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Inside the Deshaun Watson deal

Cleveland Browns v Houston Texan

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 15: Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans warms up before playing the Cleveland Browns at NRG Stadium on October 15, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

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The Browns were out of the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes until they dug extra deep in the couch cushions of Jimmy Haslam’s Cleveland steamship.

So how much money will they be paying Watson? We’ve gotten our eyes on the details, per a source with knowledge of the contract.

Here’s the breakdown, which is as simple as it gets:

1. Signing bonus: $44.965 million, fully guaranteed.

2. 2022 base salary: $1.035 million, fully guaranteed.

3. 2023 base salary: $46 million, fully guaranteed.

4. 2024 base salary: $46 million, fully guaranteed.

5. 2025 base salary: $46 million, fully guaranteed.

6. 2026 base salary: $46 million, fully guaranteed.

Rarely if ever has a deal looked so clear and clean. No games, no fluff. He gets $46 million each and every year. Each year, the relative impact on the cap will shrink, because the total spending limit will keep going up and up and up.

As previously reported, there’s no signing bonus forfeiture or voiding of future guarantees based on the existing allegations against Watson. If he’s suspended by the league, the guarantees remain.

And the current structure minimizes the financial impact of a suspension, given that he’d lose only $60,882 for each game missed. If, for some reason, a suspension doesn’t happen until 2024, the Browns surely would convert most of the $46 million to a guarantee, dropping the salary to the minimum and once again minimizing the cost of a suspension.

It seems like a too-convenient loophole, but plenty of players and teams have done it in the past. The league presumably could impose a separate fine aimed at reversing the impact of the obvious manipulation of the consequences of a suspension.