NFL Team 'Out Of Running' For Deshaun Watson; 'Favorite' Revealed: Report

By Jason Hall

March 17, 2022

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans
Photo: Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns have reportedly been informed that they're "out of the running for" acquiring Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reports.

"The #Browns have been informed they’re out of the running for Deshaun Watson, a source says. The team still views Baker Mayfield as their quarterback going forward. They told Mayfield’s agents at the Combine they’d only explore top-tier QBs such as Watson."

Additionally, Garafolo reports the Browns still view Baker Mayfield as their starting quarterback moving forward and told his agents that "they'd only explore top-tier QBs such as Watson" during the NFL Combine earlier this month.

NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports the New Orleans Saints "have been the favorite from the start" and are trying to keep the former Pro Bowl quarterback "from their NFC South rivals," with the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons also reportedly interested.

A league source told ESPN that Browns representatives flew to Houston to pitch Watson on waiving his no-trade clause should a trade be agreed upon with the Texans.

On Tuesday (March 15), ESPN's Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported the Atlanta Falcons had emerged as a "sleeper" team among the potential trade destinations for Watson.

"The Falcons have emerged as a sleeper team to acquire Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, league sources tell @mortreport and me," Schefter tweeted on Tuesday (March 15). "The Falcons join the Panthers, Saints and Browns as teams that have met with, or are interested in, trading for Watson."

Watson is a native of Gainesville, Georgia, which is 50 miles northeast of Atlanta and was a ball boy for the Falcons during his younger years, as well as the No. 4 prospect from the Peach State for the 2014 national recruiting cycle, according to the 247Sports Composite.

Last Friday (March 11), the Harris County District Attorney's Office ruled that Watson would not face criminal charges in relation to the accusations.

Hours later, a source told ESPN that the Panthers were exported to make an "aggressive" trade offer for Watson.

The source confirmed that Watson -- who had a decorated collegiate career in the Carolinas at Clemson University -- is not expected to use his no-trade clause if a deal is reached.

The Panthers had previously attempted to acquire Watson via trade last offseason before he was linked to 22 lawsuits and 10 criminal complaints of sexual misconduct.

A source with knowledge told Pro Football Network that no team has done more due diligence in investigating Watson's legal situation than the Panthers.

Carolina picked up the fifth-year option on quarterback Sam Darnold, who was acquired in a trade with the New York Jets last offseason, and faces a $18.9 million cap number in 2022 as part of the deal.

The 26-year-old was initially reported to be targeted by Carolina and several other teams including the Seattle Seahawks -- who traded away franchise quarterback Russell Wilson last week -- as well as the Saints Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (prior to Tom Brady's unretirement announcement), Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts, ESPN reported.

All the teams reported to be interested in Watson are aware that the NFL could hand down its own suspension of the quarterback if he is found to have violated the league's personal code of conduct.

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