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The Browns are still exploring a trade for Deshaun Watson and will have to offer several first-round picks, Baker Mayfield and possibly other players.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Browns, who have done their due diligence on Deshaun Watson for months, continue to explore a trade for the controversial quarterback, sources tell, but must be prepared to drop several first-round pick, Baker Mayfield and maybe some other players.

While a grand jury decided on Friday not to indict Watson on criminal charges in connection with accusations by 22 massage therapists who accuse him of sexual assault and harassment, the Browns have moved ahead with their possible lawsuit of the quarterback that ‘they passed in the 2017 draft. That year, they traded No. 12 to the Texans and allowed them to draft him there.

The Browns are still conducting their own thorough investigation into Watson and the allegations, and must not only be comfortable with what they find, but also be confident that none of these charges will be brought in the future.

They must also be given the green light by Browns ownership, who should prepare for the huge backlash that will come with such a move.

The Browns should put in place a strong support program for Watson, which should include working with women’s groups, counseling and restitution.

But it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve taken a chance on a player with a past, including Kareem Hunt, who was filmed kicking a woman in the hallway of his downtown building. city ​​of Cleveland. become a positive influence who gives back to the community. He’s still a work in progress, but they’ve surrounded him with a strong, multi-pronged support system and he’s transformed.

They gave defensive tackle Malik McDowell a second chance last season despite his criminal past, and he was derailed after the season when he dropped out of the Browns’ support structure. also changed a life. They are still involved in McDowell’s care and hope he can recover.

So would Watson, who still has civil lawsuits pending and will likely be suspended by the NFL for the first part of the season under the Personal Conduct Policy. The Browns should draw up a comprehensive plan and implement one zero- This is not an easy decision and they take it very seriously.

If they decide to seriously pursue a trade — and they seem to be leaning in that direction — they’ll need to act quickly and make an offer to the Texans that will include several first-round picks and most likely Mayfield.

They will also have to sell Watson – who has a no-trade clause in his contract – on the idea that they are an elite quarterback away from winning a Super Bowl. They can point to championship-caliber defense, the running game and offensive line.

They significantly bolstered their case on Saturday by trading Dallas for four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper, who will make any quarterback look good, let alone one of the best in the NFL.

They’re also trying to keep Jarvis Landry by lowering his cap from $16,379, while giving him permission to seek a trade. If he knows Watson might be coming and Cooper is there, he might want to stay.

The Browns will also continue to add to the reception pile, whether in free agency or the draft. It’s deep class, and even without a first-round pick, they could land a good one in the second or third. tower.

Their trade offer will obviously have to include Mayfield, who wouldn’t stay here with Watson, but unlike some of the other teams interested in Watson, the Browns have a top-notch quarterback to add to the mix. would save Mayfield’s $18.86 million salary for 2022, might have to give up other key players to get there, but if they really want to win a Super Bowl — and they do — they might have to acquiesce.

If the Texans don’t want Mayfield, the Browns should trade him elsewhere — and there would be suitors.

Another player that comes to mind in the trade package is Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward. There’s no way the Browns want to part ways with their lockdown corner, but if the Texans insist and the deal is done, they shouldn’t rule it out.

The Browns have shown they can recruit defensemen, and they’ll find a way to replace him, maybe even in this draft. They also reportedly have another starting cornerback on a rookie deal in Greg Newsome II, not for the $19 million Ward will get his next extension. As it stands, it’s heading into its fifth optional year at $13.294 million.

New Texans coach Lovie Smith is a defensive coach, and could see the wisdom in such a move. With Watson averaging $39 million a year through 2025 and big hits from Myles Garrett in 2023, the Browns will have to save some pennies somewhere. Watson – who is five months younger than Mayfield and turns 27 in September – is also out of contract after 2023, with just $5.4 million in dead space after that.

According to NFL Network, the Saints and Panthers have already made offers for Watson, and other teams are willing to give up the three first-round picks the Texans seek. Watson also plans to meet with potential suitors before making a decision.

If the Browns bring him in for a visit – and the odds are getting more and more likely – they should have Cooper, Nick Chubb and Garrett greet him at the door. There aren’t many teams with the resources and the Browns roster, and it makes for an enticing presentation.

The Browns passed on the player, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, called “Michael Jordan” in 2017, and now they have a second chance to land him.

It’s a bold and controversial move, but one they might find worth making.

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