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Does This NFL Network Analyst Think Watson Can Be Elite Again?

This analyst believes Deshaun Watson has the potential to reinstate himself among the top quarterbacks in the National Football League.

Watson, a three-time Pro Bowler, will enter his third year with the Cleveland Browns in 2024 after being traded from the Houston Texans to Cleveland in March 2022 and subsequently signing a new, fully guaranteed, five-year, $230 million contract with the Browns.

Watson sat out the entire 2021 season and then served an 11-game suspension through early 2022 for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. In 2023, he went 5-1 as Cleveland’s starter before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in a Week 10 win over the Baltimore Ravens.

Although Watson has only played 12 total games since the end of the 2020 season — when he was the NFL’s all-time leader (4,823) — NFL Network’s Rhett Lewis believes the former Clemson star is capable of returning to form as one of the best signal calls in the sport.

“I really think Deshaun Watson can be one of the elite quarterbacks in this league again,” Lewis said in an interview with Spencer German on The Dawg Check podcast. “There’s too much talent there and I think there’s too much internal motivation to leave behind everything that has bothered him in a big way over the last three years.

“If we go back to the suspension year, where you only get him for a few games and then he’s injured for most of the season. He just hasn’t had a full season and a full offseason to put this whole thing together and watch it unfold.

Watson underwent surgery on November 21 to repair a displaced fracture to the glenoid in his right (throwing) shoulder. Before the season-ending injury, he completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 1,115 yards and seven touchdowns with four interceptions in six games last season.

The 28-year-old is working his way back from the injury and the Browns have said they expect him to be ready for the start of next season, with general manager Andrew Berry recently making it clear his expectations for Watson are high. on the way to 2024.

Lewis is also bullish on Watson, who was once widely regarded as a top-tier NFL QB, and Lewis eventually sees him playing at an elite level again – as long as he can stay on the field.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed for the health perspective as long as everything to do with the shoulder and everything that has hurt him over the years,” Lewis said. “If you can play a full season of seventeen games with a player like that, because I really think that’s when you start to see the rhythm playing. That’s where you start to see the comfort with Kevin Stefanski (Browns head coach) in the game. …

“So it’s a matter of continuity, and with that continuity of availability you get consistency. And then, with the consistency, I think you’ll start to see elite level play happening.”

Watson has rushed for 16,756 yards and 118 touchdowns with 45 interceptions in 66 career games with the Browns and Texans since being taken by Houston in the first round (12th overall) of the 2017 draft.

In his two seasons with the Browns, Watson has completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 2,217 yards, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

–Photo courtesy of Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

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