CLEVELAND, Ohio – In this edition of Hey, Mary Kay! I answer questions about Deshaun Watson’s availability for 2022, wide receivers, and more.
Hey, Mary Kay: I just read that both sides in the Deshaun Watson litigation have decided not to have any trials from Aug. 1, 2022 to March 1, 2023. Does this mean barring any suspension from the NFL that he will be available for the entire 2022 season? And if so, then are we looking for a suspension that may occur in 2023? – Gregory Tesoriero, Marco Island, Fla.
Hey, Gregory: The 22 civil suits are separate from the NFL’s investigation and might not have much bearing on Watson’s possible suspension. The NFL’s probe is ongoing, and anything can still happen for this season or beyond.
I asked Commissioner Roger Goodell at the NFL Annual Meeting if investigators, led by the Lisa Friel, will interview more than the 10 Watson accusers to whom they’ve already spoken. He indicated that could happen, and then the league will likely interview Watson. With developments occurring regularly in the civil litigation, including Watson having to reveal what transpired between him and the 18 massage therapists who came out in support of him, the league will be very thorough in its investigation and not act too quickly.
Goodell stated he’s unlikely to place Watson on his Exempt List – essentially paid leave while not counting against the roster – because of the two grand jury non-indictments, meaning a suspension or fine are the likely options. But there’s no timeframe, and even the Browns haven’t been given one. In the meantime, Watson will participate fully in the offseason program beginning April 19 and prepare as though he’ll start the season.
Hey, Mary Kay: With Buffalo and Kansas City recently being in the news regarding their stadiums, it revived the topic in my mind with regards to future stadium plans for the Browns. How might the acquisition and significant financial and organizational commitment made to Deshaun Watson expedite the new stadium plans of the Browns, if at all? – Matt Nickless, Atlanta, Ga.
Hey Matt: At the NFL Annual Meeting two weeks ago, the Haslams told us that plans are underway to improve FirstEnergy Stadium in conjunction with the lakefront development that’s been taken over by the city and their development partners. An entirely new stadium is not in the plans for now.
“Our part now is going to focus on how we bring the stadium up to a better standard, so I think we’ve started interviewing and thinking about architects, and engineers, etc., ” Jimmy Haslam said. “We’re in the beginning stage to start having those conversations and then hopefully marry it with the work the city and the partnerships are doing with the waterfront development. Hopefully we’ll get there. ”
Hey, Mary Kay: Do you believe the Browns will make a move at the wide receiver position before, during or after the draft? Could Baker Mayfield be involved in any of those moves? Thanks! – Alexander Lanzdorf, Bedford Heights, Ohio
Hey, Alexander: I think the Browns will explore any and all opportunities to upgrade their receiving corps, including acquiring receivers who might hit the trade block before during or after the draft. GM Andrew Berry is on the hunt for a No. 2 receiver to pair with Amari Cooper, and will leave no stone unturned.
It doesn’t seem like the Seahawks will be willing to part with DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett, but the Browns would certainly be interested in them or anyone else of that caliber. They’re also still doing plenty of diligence on college prospects such as Treylon Burks and Christian Watson, who made top-30 visits to Cleveland on Friday. Jarvis Landry is also still a possibility, and they might draft a receiver at No. 44, or possibly even trade up to grab one.
One way or another, the Browns will add another starting-caliber receiver for Deshaun Watson, and maybe another complementary weapon. They figure to play plenty of three-receiver sets this season, and some four-receiver sets. It won’t look anything like the 27th-ranked passing game of 2021.
Hey, Mary Kay: Do you think that a trade package that includes Baker Mayfield, Greedy Williams and a 2022 second-round pick would be enough to get DK Metcalf from Seattle? – Steven C, Beavercreek, Ohio
Hey, Steven: The Seahawks, who aren’t shopping Metcalf and don’t want to trade him, would reportly need at least two first-round picks to start the conversation, so that would effectively eliminate the Browns. At this point, I don’t think Seattle wants to give up much for Mayfield, but would be interested in him at a bargain-basement price. In that case, I don’t think Mayfield, Williams and a 2022 second-rounder would get it done. Having said that, as I mentioned above, the Browns would certainly be interested in Metcalf if the Seahawks were willing to deal him.
Hey, Mary Kay: What are you thoughts on the Browns possibly adding another mid-tier veteran linebacker to play with Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Anthony Walker, possibly with Sione Takitaki as a third-down guy? If you agree, who are some names that come to mind? – Matt Midkiff, Mansfield, Ohio
Hey, Matt: There aren’t many quality free-agent linebackers available, although Malcolm Smith, 32, is still out there and might be worth bringing back. He knows the system well and gets the job done. The Browns also have Tony Fields II, their 2021 fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, ready to make an impact this year after setbacks from injuries last season. He’s comparable in versatility to JOK. Takitaki, a solid run defender, is poised for more duty this season. I think they’ll be OK at the spot as long as they add another piece or two from the veteran or rookie ranks.
Hey, Mary Kay: We know the Browns viewed Nick Harris as JC Tretter’s eventual replacement when he got too expensive to keep. Do the Browns view James Hudson III in the same light, as Jack Conklin’s eventual replacement? Or is he viewed as more of a swing tackle like a Chris Hubbard? – Benny, Los Angeles.
Hey, Benny: Ideally, Hudson will develop into a starter, which is what the Browns likely hoped for when they drafted him in the fourth round out of Cincinnati. Hudson started four games as a rookie and got some good playing experience. Right tackle Jack Conklin is expected to be recovered enough from his torn patella surgery to start the season, but if he needs more time, Hudson will be a candidate to sub for him, along with Hubbard. Hudson can play either side, and will serve as a swing tackle until he’s ready to start. Conklin, a two-time first-team All-Pro, is heading into the final year of a restructured deal that will pay him $ 8 million guaranteed for 2022, with $ 4 million in incentives bases on playing time.
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