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Cleveland Browns officially announce Deshaun Watson trade

Cleveland Browns leadership on Sunday officially announced the team's trade for Deshaun Watson. [Tim Harrison / Ideastream Public Media]
First Energy Stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns

Top Cleveland Browns management have officially announced the team's trade for former Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, saying the team did "extensive investigative, legal and reference work" prior to the move.

Watson faces 22 lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct and assault. He has denied wrongdoing, and a Texas grand jury declined to bring criminal charges earlier this month.

News of the trade Friday sparked an uproar on social media. On Sunday, Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a statement they are “aware and empathetic to the highly personal sentiments expressed" about the trade.

“We spent a tremendous amount of time exploring and investigating the opportunity to trade for Deshaun Watson,” the Haslams said in the release. “Our team’s comprehensive evaluation process was of utmost importance due to the sensitive nature of his situation and the complex factors involved. “

The Haslams reportedly met with Watson in person to talk about his priorities and how he plans to “approach his career on and off the field,” along with head coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry.

“He was humble, sincere, and candid,” the Haslams said in the statement. The team owners said they will respect due process as Watson's legal proceedings continue.

In the joint statement, Stefanski added that he is looking forward to coaching Watson.

“We understand the concerns and questions that exist but are confident in the extensive work Andrew [Berry] and his staff have done to feel confident about him joining our organization,” Stefanski said.

How much playing time Watson will actually get in the 2022 season is still up in the air as the NFL continues its own investigation.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center issued a statement Saturday calling the trade decision “triggering” for many and encouraged people in need of support to contact the center.

"To the community we say, we see you," the center's statement reads. "We hear your outrage. We feel it too. Every click. Every post and every tweet. Every donation sends a clear message."

Watson will receive a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract, according to the Associated Press.

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