The problem with the Hail Mary pass is that it is a low percentage game. Born of desperation, this is something NFL teams only try when they have no other choice. It’s breathtaking to watch and exciting to try, but they do it with the full knowledge that there is little chance of success.

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However, when Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam decided to ditch his Hail Mary checkbook in March, he stood a good chance of hooking up. That’s because Haslam offered a five-year, $230 million contract to quarterback Deshawn Watson, which, unlike nearly every other NFL contract, was fully guaranteed.

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“I wish they didn’t guarantee the entire contract,” Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said a few weeks later at the NFL’s annual spring meetings. “I do not know what [Watson] was supposed to be the first guy to get a fully guaranteed contract. For me, this is something innovative, and it will complicate negotiations with others.”

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There are many reasons why Bisciotti believes Watson should not have taken this field. Watson hasn’t done what superstar guards Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes have done at the NFL level. He also didn’t play last year when he demanded a trade from Houston and served time to avoid playing for the Texans again. And there are all the legitimate questions that arise from the 22 civil lawsuits still pending against him from women alleging sexual harassment, for which he could still face league disciplinary action in the form of a suspension.

However, Bisciotti is mistaken that Watson was the first. When quarterback Kirk Cousins ​​became a free agent after the 2017 season, he signed with the Minnesota Vikings for three years and a fully guaranteed $84 million. Cousins ​​wasn’t the best quarterback in the league, but market forces meant he was able to do things that others couldn’t. A starting quarterback who achieves free rein in his prime is rare. At the time, the Cousins ​​deal was seen as a historic signing, with many wondering if others would follow. They are not.

In the four years between the Cousins ​​deal and a new contract extension with Watson, Rodgers, Brady and Mahomes were among the quarterbacks who negotiated new contracts or renewals that came with mind-blowing numbers, none of which were completely guaranteed.

Fast forward to March 2022, when the Browns negotiated with the Texans to acquire Watson and convinced Watson (which had a no-trade clause) to approve the deal with a full five-year guarantee. They did so after he informed the Browns and Panthers that they did not claim his services and turned their attention to the Saints and Falcons as potential trading posts. Haslam didn’t want to take no for an answer, so he made an offer he knew most (if not all) of his co-owners wouldn’t want to make.

NFL executives were stunned by the fully guaranteed contract structure and what it could mean when their own superstars ask for an extension. How likely is it that the next set of renewable quarterbacks, including Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson and Joe Burrow, will move the market towards a world where NFL players get guaranteed contracts like their baseball and basketball counterparts? What prevents this from happening and how likely is it that something will change in the near future?