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How Much Salary Cap Hit Are Browns Taking for $230 Million QB Deshaun Watson?

Vasudha Mudgal

How Much Salary Cap Hit Are Browns Taking for $230 Million QB Deshaun Watson?

The Cleveland Browns find themselves in a particularly challenging position due to the colossal contract of their starting quarterback, Deshaun Watson. A staggering $230 million over five years has become a focal point of discussion, not only for its sheer size but also for its impact on the team’s financial flexibility. At the same time, Watson hasn’t reaped many benefits — spending more time on the bench than on the field.

The Clemson alum’s cap hit of $63.96 million in 2024 is a jaw-dropping 25% of the NFL’s salary cap, a figure that is unheard of for a single player. This astronomical number is part of a contract that includes a $44,965,000 signing bonus, with the entire $230 million guaranteed — first in league history. In 2024 alone, Watson will earn a base salary of $46 million, contributing to a cap hit that severely limits the Browns’ ability to sign additional talent — although each team has received an increased $30 million in cap space for the upcoming season.

This situation is exacerbated in the latter years of his contract, which features a $60 million cap hit annually in the final three years. The arrangement was initially designed to be bottom-heavy, providing the Browns some leeway in the early years; however, this structure has now backfired.

Despite the significant financial commitment, Watson’s tenure with the Browns has been underwhelming. Over two seasons, he has played just 12 games, with his time on the field marred by a suspension in the 2022 season related to allegations of sexual misconduct.

As if it weren’t enough, his 2023 season ended prematurely due to a shoulder injury that necessitated extensive surgery. These factors have led to an untenable situation where Watson’s cost to the Browns approaches $9.6 million per game—a steep price for a player whose impact has not met expectations.

Deshaun Watson Contract Details

It apparently doesn’t stop in 2024, as Watson’s cap hits in the next two years also stand at $63.96 million. And if the Browns decide to back out of the deal before 2027, they have to pay north of $9 million more to their star shot-caller, according to Factory of Sadness. Moreover, the Browns are projected to be over the cap for the next season at least, although they face the potential departure of key players. Notably, they are under the cap by $20 million this year, and at the same time, they are set to exceed the cap by $18 million in 2025.

Nonetheless, the Green Bay Packers face a similar dilemma with Aaron Jones, whose four-year, $48 million deal hasn’t matched expectations, relegating him behind DJ Dillon. On the defensive side, the Buffalo Bills’ investment in Von Miller with a $120 million deal has yet to yield the anticipated impact post-injury.

About the author

Vasudha Mudgal

Vasudha Mudgal


Vasudha, a dedicated journalist at The SportsRush, has cultivated a deep appreciation for the NFL over the past year. Her journey from being an English educator to a sports journalist is marked by her extensive writing experience and unwavering passion for sports. With a never-ending enthusiasm for reading and discussing the competitive nature of the NFL, Vasudha's favorite player is Patrick Mahomes, whom she aspires to meet someday. A high school basketball enthusiast, she embodies the dynamism of balancing diverse interests in sports. Vasudha's prolific writing career boasts around 400 articles, all centered on the intricacies and excitement of the NFL.

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