Usually, an NFL news conference introducing a team’s newest big-name free agent is full of generic player, coach, general manager “speak.” Yesterday’s Browns press conference introducing Deshaun Watson was somber, serious and a little apologetic. The Browns set no perimeters in advance and the local media asked very thoughtful and important questions. I’ve been critical of the Cleveland media in the past, but yesterday they asked the tough questions that needed to be asked. As for GM Andrew Berry, head coach Kevin Stefanski and QB Deshaun Watson, I think with their answers they came away as genuine. Here are a few key points I took away from yesterday.
A five-month investigation. This seems to be a point of contention for different people. Andrew Berry stated the process of investigating Watson was conducted by law enforcement officials in Houston Texas and was thorough and unbiased. When asked if any of the 22 alleged victims were interviewed, Berry insisted team lawyers advised the investigators not to interview them because it might hinder the criminal investigation. There are rumors the league told teams not to interview the alleged victims as well. The investigators did go over their statements, the same statements that are being introduced as evidence to criminal and civil grand juries. The five-month timeline has Browns breaking out the calendars to corollate what Baker Mayfield did to start the investigation. Andrew Berry explained after the NFL trade deadline, the Browns reevaluate the entire team as if it was an expansion team. Every team starts their off-season after the trade deadline.
First-Year Contracts. The national media presented Watson’s record-breaking contract in a sinister light. Much was made of Watson’s first-year base salary being $1 million to protect his earnings from an NFL suspension. Andrew Berry, who never discusses player contracts, explained this is common for the Browns and the league. Other players signed by Andrew Berry with a minimum first-year base salary: Austin Hooper, Myles Garrett, John Johnson III, Nick Chubb, Amari Cooper, Wyatt Teller, Troy Hill and Case Keenum. You can also throw in the new contracts signed by Tyreek Hill and Aaron Rogers. These types of deals allow the team to add an extra year to the contract and spread out the large upfront signing bonus over an additional year.
Watson’s guilt or innocence. There was no way any Browns official will pronounce their feelings on this subject either way. Andrew Berry was pushed by one reporter who asked if he felt Watson was innocent. Berry answered, “We feel comfortable in Deshaun the person.” A few people have interpreted this statement that Andrew Berry doesn’t think Deshaun Watson is innocent. I interpret it as an answer to protect the Browns from future legal action if Watson is found guilty of any future charges, civil or criminal. Throughout the news conference, Watson stated he was innocent and wanted to clear his name. He also said at this time, he and his lawyer were not going to settle any of the cases against him. I can understand this, if you’re truly innocent why settle? Settlement gives the appearance of guilt. I don’t know if he’s guilty or innocent. I’ll let the process play out and it appears this process may take a while.
Deshaun Watson comes off as a likable person. I don’t doubt he wants to and has given back to the community. The media will paint this trade in light of their personal opinions or to get attention. As I’ve stated in a previous article, I’m not a fan of the person and his actions, but I’m a Browns fan and I always will be a Browns fan. As a pure football move, the trade was made for an elite talent at the most important position on an NFL team, quarterback. Browns GM Andrew Berry will continually improve the roster. He said after the season his main objective was to improve the passing game. For better or worse, he did that with Deshaun Watson.