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Ex-Texans QB Deshaun Watson chooses Browns over Falcons, Saints

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, shown Dec. 13, 2020, will receive a new five-year, $230 million contract as part of the trade agreement. File Photo by Mark Black/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/40bc8a3da1d841a5b84ff3794abfcd88/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, shown Dec. 13, 2020, will receive a new five-year, $230 million contract as part of the trade agreement. File Photo by Mark Black/UPI | License Photo

March 18 (UPI) -- Houston Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson has agreed to waive his no-trade clause to join the Cleveland Browns.

The Texans confirmed the trade agreement Friday. Houston received three first-round draft picks -- including the No. 13 overall pick in next month's draft -- as well as a 2023 third-rounder and a 2024 fourth-round choice from the Browns.

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In return, the Browns get Watson and a fifth-round pick in 2024.

"Earlier today, we agreed to trade Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns," Texans general manager Nick Caserio said in a news release. "I felt it was the right move for our organization as we head into the new league year focused on building our roster for the 2022 season.

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"Our priority right now is adding talented players to the foundation we have already put in place over the last 15 months and this trade supports that plan. As we navigate through the rest of the off-season, we remain open-minded to all avenues that allow us to improve our roster and add to our program."

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The Browns also are set to give Watson a new five-year, $230 million contract, according to ESPN and NFL Media. He would receive $184 million over the first four years of his new deal -- a $48 million raise over what he was scheduled to earn under his current contract.

Watson will receive a $45 million signing bonus as part of the deal, and the $230 million is fully guaranteed -- setting a record for the most guaranteed money given to an NFL player.

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The 26-year-old Watson confirmed his decision with an Instagram post that depicted himself in a Browns uniform.

The news of Watson's expected move to the Browns comes one day after it was reported that Cleveland had been the first team eliminated from a possible deal.

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The Carolina Panthers were then informed that they were no longer in contention to acquire Watson, appearing to leave the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints as the lone suitors remaining.

NFL Media reported that the Browns' strong roster, in addition to Watson's discussions with owner Jimmy Haslam and general manager Andrew Berry, were determining factors for Watson to change course and join the AFC North squad.

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After missing out on Watson, the Saints are expected to speak with free-agent quarterback Jameis Winston about a possible reunion. The Falcons, meanwhile, will be left to mend their relationship with former NFL MVP Matt Ryan, who could pursue other options.

Watson, a first-round pick in the 2017 draft out of Clemson, didn't play last season after an off-season request to be traded and the emergence of 22 lawsuits against him alleging sexual assault and inappropriate conduct during multiple massage sessions.

A Texas grand jury declined to indict Watson on criminal charges last week, and trade talks between the Texans and interested clubs began soon after.

Though he won't face criminal charges, Watson is still subject to discipline from the NFL. The 22 civil cases against him remain active, and the league is still investigating the Pro Bowl quarterback under its personal conduct policy.

"Any transaction would have no effect on the NFL's ongoing and comprehensive investigation of the serious allegations against Deshaun Watson," NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said in a statement Friday. "Nor would it affect his status under the collective bargaining agreement and the personal conduct policy."

Watson, a Pro Bowl selection in three consecutive seasons before missing all of the 2021 campaign, is set to join a Browns offense that features one of the top ground games in the NFL, led by running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Cleveland also acquired Pro Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper from the Dallas Cowboys.

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In acquiring Watson, the Browns will now shift to getting rid of quarterback Baker Mayfield, who requested a trade earlier this week after the Browns joined the Watson sweepstakes.

Mayfield underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder in January, and he is expected to be fully cleared before training camp. The Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks are among the teams rumored to be interested in Mayfield.

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