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Browns owner Jimmy Haslam: Deshaun Watson's fully guaranteed deal was in team's 'best interest'

Last offseason, the Cleveland Browns handed Deshaun Watson a fully guaranteed $230 million contract to entice the quarterback to approve a trade from Houston.

It's a deal that fellow owners have openly balked at since it went down. It's also a deal that reportedly helped widen the chasm between Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, ultimately leading to the quarterback's trade request.

Speaking to reporters Monday from the Annual League Meeting, owner Jimmy Haslam declined to address the Jackson situation, noting it would be "inappropriate to comment," but defended the Watson deal.

"Every team, every business, has to look and do what they think is in the best interest of their team," Haslam said, via the Akron Beacon Journal. "We did what we thought was in the best interest of our team. We still feel that way. So, we're excited to, if you will, have the stuff behind us. This time last year, how many games is he going to play? Is he going to play? Is he not going to play? He's going to be there the whole season [now] and barring injury, heaven forbid, he's going to play all 17 games and hopefully more. That I think alone is a bigger leap to the organization, to Deshaun, to all of us."

Watson returned from his 11-game suspension to start the final six games for the Browns in 2022. After sitting out the entire 2021 campaign and missing the bulk of last season, Watson's play was uneven. He completed 58.2 percent of his passes for 1,102 yards with seven touchdown passes and five interceptions.

The Browns believe a full year in Kevin Stefanski's offense will lead to Watson returning to his Pro Bowl level. Along with the upgrades at receiver, including trading for Elijah Moore, Watson is in a better situation heading into Year 2. But Haslam stopped short of offering a playoff mandate.

"I don't want to say that, but I think that we have expectations to go to the playoffs," Haslam said. "But I'm not going to say if we don't make the playoffs, X, Y, Z happens because that'll be the headline tomorrow. OK? Listen, the AFC is tough. You all been around, our division is tough."

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