Cleveland Browns: All-In Decision on Deshaun Watson Sparks Hope and Outrage
In what was already a wild offseason for superstar quarterbacks, perhaps the biggest shocker went down late last week when Deshaun Watson was traded to the Browns.
After eliminating Cleveland from the sweepstakes for his services, Watson did an about face when the Browns offered $230 million guaranteed (a new NFL record by a long shot).
Shortly before making the trade, the Browns had their former No. 1-overall pick Baker Mayfield, who was upset about the team's courting of Watson, request a trade. Afterbeing told they were not in the running for Watson, the Browns reportedly told Mayfield's agent they wouldn't deal him. Now it's an eventuality.
The Browns gave up a king's ransom to Houston get Watson with their next three first-round picks and five draft selections overall, not to mention the contract. The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia believes the Browns could maybe get a conditional third-round pick back for Mayfield.
On the field, Watson is a definite upgrade. He dramatically boosted the Browns’ Super Bowl odds in Vegas, though it remains to be seen if he will be suspended by the NFL and for how long.
"They went all-in to acquire a quarterback in Deshaun Watson who, at his best, can be a top-five quarterback in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns, because of this trade, can win a Super Bowl," wrote Cleveland.com’s Dan Labee.
Off the field, the Browns' decision has sparked outrage. Though Watson was recently cleared of criminal charges related to the sexual misconduct allegations against him, he still faces 22 civil lawsuits and has been accused by two dozen women of sexual misconduct and sexual assault.
The Browns released a statement expressing that they did "extensive investigative, legal and reference work" over the past several months in preparation for the trade, including in-depth conversations with Watson, but the attorney representing the 22 women said no team reached out to him or his clients.
The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center released a statement that read, in part, "We hear your outrage. We feel it too." They have received more than 1,000 donations since the trade.
"They are, at least on the surface, selling their souls to win a Super Bowl," Labee wrote. "They appear willing to look away or reject the accusations from 22 women in exchange for not having to stomach another year of subpar quarterback play."
Cincinnati Bengals: Third Offensive Lineman Signed in Free Agency
The Bengals busted out of the free agency gates with quick signings of guard Alex Cappa and center/guard Ted Karras. On Sunday, they added another with hulking right tackle La'el Collins.
After Joe Burrow was sacked more times than any quarterback in the league and was blasted in Cincy's Super Bowl loss, the Bengals have aggressively beefed up his blockers.
Collins was a salary-cap casualty of the Dallas Cowboys and now has a three-year contract in Cincinnati. Burrow texted Collins Sunday asking if the deal was done, per ESPN’s Ben Baby.
"I was like, "Yeah, your new bodyguard is in town,'" Collins said in a video statement released by the Bengals on Sunday. "Nobody is touching you."
The Bengals also replaced an outgoing Burrow favorite, tight end C.J. Uzomah, with a former Ravens favorite, tight end Hayden Hurst. The Ravens' top pick in the 2018 draft will now line up against his former team twice a year as opposed to the reunion Baltimore fans hoped for.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Myles Jack Is Another Mid-Tier Addition, But JuJu Is Headed to KC
The Steelers haven't made any big splashes in free agency, but they have continued to make quality additions.
First, Pittsburgh inked Mitchell Trubisky to be the starting quarterback following Ben Roethlisberger. They improved their offensive line by signing interior blockers James Daniels and Mason Cole.
Most recently, the Steelers signed cornerback Levi Wallace and linebacker Myles Jack. Jack agreed to a two-year, reported $16 million deal after being released by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"In signing Jack, the Steelers add an inside linebacker to play alongside and mentor former top-10 pick Devin Bush, and someone who can succeed at playing both the run and dropping into coverage," ESPN’s Brooke Pryor wrote. "Jack is on the pricier end of the Steelers' free agency acquisitions, but he's worth the money."
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is leaving Pittsburgh, however, after signing a one-year reported $10.75 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs and Ravens also reportedly pursued Smith-Schuster last offseason.
Now the physical slot receiver will look to rebound from an injury-shortened season and declining stats since his monster 2018 season in which he posted 1,426 receiving yards. The Steelers also saw wide receivers James Washington and Ray-Ray McCloud sign elsewhere this offseason, so expect them to be active in the wide receiver draft market.