The Cleveland Browns pulled off a blockbuster trade for Deshaun Watson this offseason, but they had another quarterback firmly on their radar before the switch.
The Browns had an interest in bringing in former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who is now with the Denver Broncos. The Browns pitched for Wilson, according to Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, but he just wasn’t interested in playing for the Browns.
“They made a kind of pitch for Russell Wilson. Russell Wilson was a player they were interested in. But Russell would be able to determine where he ended up. I don’t know everything, but I don’t think he had the Browns on his list as a place to play,” Cabot said on the July 26 edition of The Orange and Brown Talk podcast. “He had his heart set on a couple of teams and I don’t think so [the Browns] were not included. They might have been better off trying to land or land Russell Wilson, but I don’t think they really had that option.
Wilson would have evoked a very different reaction from the Browns fan base than Watson, who has been charged with sexual misconduct by 24 women and settled 20 of the civil suits. Watson faces what could be a lengthy suspension and the Browns head into camp with that uncertainty that lurks throughout their season.
Wilson is squeaky clean — almost to the point of failure — but didn’t seem to see Cleveland as a viable target when looking for a trade with the Seahawks. The Broncos took the opportunity to bring him in, sending quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant, defenseman Shelby Harris, two first-round picks, two second-round picks and 2022 fifth-round ninth-round Seattle Pro Bowler.
The Browns sent three first-round draft picks to the Texans in trade for Watson, in addition to a third-round pick and two fourth-round picks. Cleveland also got a sixth-round pick along with Watson in return.
The Browns also opted to give Watson a fully guaranteed $230 million contract after waiving his no-trade clause to come to Cleveland. The Browns competed for his services in the latter leg of negotiations with the Panthers, Saints and Falcons.
The Browns publicly endorsed Baker Mayfield as their quarterback at the end of a turbulent 8-9 season. However, they made it clear to the former top pick at the combine in February that they would look at the premium options on the market, like Wilson, Aaron Rodgers or Watson, according to ESPN.
The situation quickly escalated, with the Browns going all-in during their pursuit of Watson, a move that left Mayfield – who led the Browns to a historic playoff win in 2021 – feeling disrespected.
“I was told one thing and they completely did another,” Mayfield said on the YNK podcast shortly after the trade.
It’s been a while, but Mayfield now has a new home with the Carolina Panthers, where he will battle Sam Darnold for the starting spot.