March 20 (Reuters) – The Cleveland Browns have acquired quarterback Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans, saying on Sunday they had done their due diligence in signing the 26-year-old who has been accused of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct.
More than 20 women had come forward last year and filed lawsuits against Watson, who was also investigated by the NFL for allegations they described as “deeply disturbing.” Read full story
A Texas grand jury declined to indict the quarterback this month. Read full story
Watson had signed a four-year, $156 million contract extension with the Texans in 2020 but requested a trade last January and did not play last season.
“We spent a tremendous amount of time exploring and investigating the opportunity to trade for Deshaun Watson,” Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a statement.
“We are acutely aware and empathetic to the highly personal sentiments expressed about this decision. Our team’s comprehensive evaluation process was of utmost importance due to the sensitive nature of his situation and the complex factors involved.
“We also understand there are still some legal proceedings that are ongoing and we will respect due process.”
Watson still faces civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct. He has denied the allegations.
ESPN reported Watson would sign a five-year, $230 million contract. Watson posted an image of himself wearing the Browns uniform on Instagram, saying: “Let’s go, ready to work!.”
“Our organization did a tremendous amount of background on Deshaun,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said.
“We understand the concerns and questions that exist but are confident in the extensive work… (our) staff have done to feel confident about him joining our organization.”
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)