More than Deshaun Watson will be under microscope in Browns' preseason opener

·3 min read

Aug. 11—Barring a game-day indefinite suspension that could get him banished immediately, Deshaun Watson will start for at quarterback for the Browns on Aug. 12 when they open their preseason against the Jaguars in Jacksonville.

Kickoff is 7 p.m. in TIAA Bank Field. The game will televised on WEWS-TV 5.

Watson is expected to play two or three series before Coach Kevin Stefanski removes him and turns the ball over to Jacoby Brissett, the presumed starter for at least the first six games of the season while Watson serves a suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Presumed is the operative word, because if Peter C. Harvey determines Watson should be suspended indefinitely and not less than a year, the Browns might feel compelled to trade for another quarterback.

Harvey, a former New Jersey attorney general, was appointed a week ago by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to hear the league's appeal for a longer suspension than the six-week recommendation made by disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson after Robinson heard testimony from four of the 24 massage therapists who had sued Watson on allegations of sexual misconduct.

On Aug. 11, The Associated Press reported a source told it Watson would accept an eight-game suspension and a $5 million fine to avoid a season-long suspension.

AP source: Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson would accept an eight-game suspension and $5 million fine to avoid missing the entire season.

Watson is facing a potential year-long ban for sexual misconduct

by @robmaaddi and @twithersap https://t.co/2absKjB4lO

— AP NFL (@AP_NFL) August 11, 2022

If the Browns do pursue another quarterback it won't be the likes of Josh Rosen, whom they signed to be a fourth quarterback for training camp. The only viable option is Jimmy Garoppolo from the 49ers.

Garoppolo was 9-6 as a starter last year. He is 33-14 for his career with 71 touchdown passes and 38 interceptions. But the 49ers have moved on to second-year quarterback Trey Lance as their starter.

Garoppolo had offseason shoulder surgery. He is throwing in training camp, but isn't part of 11-on-11 drills.

The Browns, $49 million under the salary cap according to overthecap.com, can absorb Garoppolo's $24.2 million contract. The Giants and Steelers have also been linked to Garoppolo in trades, but those two teams have only $5.4 million and $9.6 million of cap space available.

The 49ers don't want to cut Garoppolo on Aug. 30 when rosters are trimmed to 53 because the Seattle Seahawks, an NFC West rival, would be able to sign him. Nor do they want to keep him because his contract becomes fully guaranteed if he is on the 49ers' roster for the first game of the season.

Those factors mean Garoppolo could be acquired for a fourth-round pick or less. The Browns have four quarterbacks on the roster now. They could include Josh Rosen or Josh Dobbs in a trade, and that would still leave them with three quarterbacks not including Watson — Brissett, Garoppolo and either Dobbs or Rosen.

As far as the game with the Jaguars goes, players to watch after the starters are finished for the night include rookie running back Jerome Ford (No. 34), rookie cornerback Martin Emerson (23), defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey (97), a rookie, plus third-year defensive tackle Jordan Elliott (94). Rookie wide receiver David Bell (18), wide receiver Demetric Felton (25), second-year tackle James Hudson (66) and whoever returns kicks and punts as the Browns search for injured (ruptured achilles) Jakeem Grant's replacement.