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Cleveland Browns don’t plan to pursue Jimmy Garoppolo if Deshaun Watson faces lengthy suspension

Andrew Buller-Russ

With training camp less than two weeks away from opening, the Cleveland Browns are still waiting to hear whether their starting quarterback, Deshaun Watson will be suspended, and if so, for how long. There’s no strong indicator of how the decision could go, whether Watson is looking at a suspension at all, or if he could be ruled out for much of the season, if not the entire year.

If Watson ends up missing a large stretch of the season, the season’s expectations will fall on the shoulders of backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett. While Brissett is serviceable, he’s unlikely to lead the Browns to the playoffs after the team fell just short in 2021 with Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum leading the way.

Some have wondered if the Browns might turn to the San Francisco 49ers, hoping to pry Jimmy Garoppolo away as they turn their attention to Trey Lance. Jimmy G is surely on the trade block and he’s a clear improvement over Brissett, though he also comes with a $25 million price tag. Still, trading for Garoppolo could be the difference between a team that clinches a playoff spot and a team that spends another postseason watching from home.

But Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com recently noted that even if Watson misses an extended stretch, the team will likely just peruse the free agent market, signing a backup quarterback to slot in behind Brissett.

Some of the top available backups currently include Cam Newton, Mike Glennon, or dragging someone out of retirement like Ryan Fitzpatrick, but chances are he wouldn’t get out of bed to be a backup. So where does that leave the Browns if everything aside from the quarterback appears fit for a playoff run? Not in a good place.

Related: NFL QB Rankings: Check our top-20 quarterbacks, Baker Mayfield makes list

Not pursuing Jimmy G would be a mistake for Cleveland Browns

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Cincinnati Bengals
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

If Watson’s looking at a suspension of 10 games or more, ignoring the idea of acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo would be a big mistake. The Browns surely feel they already have a roster capable of making the playoffs or they wouldn’t have made the Watson trade to begin with. If there’s even a chance of Watson returning for a playoff run, why shouldn’t they have interest in Garoppolo helping the team actually get there?

Even if Watson misses the full year, grabbing Garoppolo should become even more enticing at that point. What better one-year solution exists on the market than Garoppolo? Sure it might not send the right message to the recently acquired Brissett, but it’s what’s best for a competitive environment.

Unlike in a few other NFL cities, everyone in the locker room would know who’s team it is from the moment Jimmy G arrives. With Garoppolo on the final year of his contract and with Watson’s deal lasting until 2027, there would be no confusion. This is Watson’s team.

  • Jimmy Garoppolo contract: $26.9 million cap hit in 2022

For Garoppolo, instead of being a team’s backup somewhere else, he’d get to quarterback a squad that feels they can contend right away. Otherwise Garoppolo and the 49ers may have to wait until right before the regular season begins to determine where the QB will be playing in 2022.

It’s possible an injury to one of the other 31 starting quarterbacks causes the demand for Garoppolo’s services to go up, but if Watson’s set to miss a large chunk of time, the Browns just might be the best fit for everyone.

Related: 2022 NFL Power Rankings: Outlook for all 32 teams entering summer