The Cleveland Browns’ decision to give Deshaun Watson a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million extension last year helped them land their franchise quarterback. But it also put them in a tough spot ahead of the 2023 NFL season, considering Watson will have a $54.99 million salary cap hit.
The Browns could get some salary cap relief if they restructure Watson’s deal, something that the player reportedly isn’t opposed to. According to Cleveland beat writer Mary Kay Cabot, the Pro Bowler told the franchise that he is open to the idea if it would help the team sign “quality veterans”.
The Browns’ general manager Andrew Berry also hinted at this possibility during a recent press conference.
Reportedly, the Browns can restructure Watson’s deal without the player’s agreement by converting the majority of his 2023 salary into a signing bonus due to a clause in the player’s contract. The move would bring his cap hit down to $21.3 million while pushing the remaining $33.69 million to future years.
However, Cleveland’s front office would probably want to work with the player and renegotiate the contract. This would allow them to add voidable years to the contract and spread the hit to more years and get further cap relief in the near future.
Watson served a 12-game suspension handed to him by NFL for his off-the-field behavior in 2022 and only made his debut for the Browns in Week 13. The 27-year-old player finished the campaign with 1,102 passing yards, seven touchdowns, and five picks, while the Browns went 3-3 with him as a starter.