The Cleveland Browns have defended their huge trade move for quarterback Deshaun Watson, and handing him a reported record new contract despite him still having 22 lawsuits for allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct against him ongoing.
The Browns handed over their first-round draft picks from 2022, 2023 and 2024 to the Houston Texans in order to acquire Watson, who is undoubtedly one of the best QBs in the league but comes with a sizeable amount of baggage.
Criticism has been piling in on the Browns after they not only signed Watson, but also handed him a new five-year deal reportedly worth $230million guaranteed.
That's the largest amount of guaranteed money ever included in one contract in NFL history - by $80m.
What's also come under fire is the reported structure of the contract, which will see Watson's base salary for next season come in at just $1m, meaning if he is suspended by the NFL he'll lose a fraction of what many feel he should.
Browns did background work on DeShaun Watson
It's that protection against Watson losing money which has also angered many opponents to the move - despite the Browns claiming they've done their due diligence.
"Our organization did a tremendous amount of background on Deshaun," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said in a statement.
"We understand the concerns and questions that exist but are confident in the extensive work Andrew and his staff have done to feel confident about him joining our organization.
"It was important for us to meet with Deshaun in person as part of our team's evaluation process, we had a candid conversation regarding his approach to coming into our organization and community.
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to coach Deshaun, he is ready to put in the hard work needed to help our team improve and make a positive impact in our community."
Deshaun Watson's off-field issues
Watson refused to play last season for the Texans after requesting a trade, but a move became untenable after if emerged that he had 22 lawsuits against him for alleged sexual assault and inappropriate conduct during massage sessions.
That meant Watson pocketed over $10m last season without even turning up for a game.
"I'm just going to keep fighting to rebuild my name and rebuild my appearance in the community," Watson said after the grand jury decision.
The NFL said that the trade would "have no effect on the NFL's ongoing and comprehensive investigation of the serious allegations against Watson.
"If the league's investigation determines Watson violated the personal conduct policy, discipline may be imposed pursuant to the policy."
Why did the Browns break the bank for Deshaun Watson?
Cleveland had been told that Watson had ruled them out as a new team, but perhaps the fact they guaranteed his full contract and will protect his cash from an NFL suspension tipped the balance.
The Browns have a decent roster that was well-fancied to make a Super Bowl run last season but for a host of injuries including to starting QB Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield's muddling performances hindered them though, and Watson is an undoubted step up if he can find his best form again after a year out of the game.
The Browns insist they have done more than enough background checking on Watson to warrant paying such a big price to sign him.
"We have done extensive investigative, legal and reference work over the past several months to provide us with the appropriate information needed to make an informed decision about pursuing him and moving forward with him as our quarterback," Browns general manager Andrew Berry said in a statement.
"Deshaun has been among the very best at the position and he understands the work needed to re-establish himself on and off the field in Cleveland. We are confident that he will make positive contributions to our team and community as we support his return to football."
The Browns did not speak to any of the 22 women who have filed civil lawsuits against Watson though, according to their lawyer.
"The Browns organization did not reach out to me. I didn't expect them to do so, and can understand why they didn't. But, knowing what I know, they probably should have," attorney Tony Buzbee told ESPN.