Browns’ Deshaun Watson has season-ending shoulder surgery, Dorian Thompson-Robinson starts Sunday

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will undergo season-ending surgery on his throwing shoulder, the team announced Wednesday. Dorian Thompson-Robinson will start Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to coach Kevin Stefanski.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Watson suffered the injury in Sunday’s win over the Baltimore Ravens. After the game, he told the medical staff that he felt discomfort in his right shoulder after a hit in the first half.
  • An MRI on Monday revealed a displaced fracture to the glenoid in his shoulder. An MRI also showed a high ankle sprain in his left ankle.
  • Doctors determined Watson needed immediate surgery and would be fully recovered by the start of the 2024 season.
  • Thompson-Robinson, a fifth-round pick, has appeared in three games in one start this season. While Watson was out this season, he and PJ Walker split time at quarterback.

What are they saying?

Browns general manager Andrew Perry said Wednesday that Watson suffered a fresh shoulder injury in the second quarter of Sunday’s game and the team was “a little unclear” on the exact play that occurred.

“Obviously, we’re very disappointed and devastated for Deshaun,” Perry said.

Perry said Watson already had a high ankle sprain before Sunday’s game.

When it comes to the Browns’ quarterback situation, Perry said the team will explore all options.

“We always keep an open mind, but our focus is really on the guys that are already in the room,” he said.

“At half-time, I knew something was wrong, but I pushed through,” said Watson, who was wearing a protective boot on his left ankle. … It’s very difficult. Make sure I keep my head above water and support the guys as much as I can.

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The Browns want to protect Watson long-term

Perry said the Browns and team doctors “reinforced” to Watson that trying to play through this injury could have negative long-term consequences.

Watson is guaranteed $63.98 million in salary in 2024, 2025 and 2026. The Browns reworked Watson’s contract in March to lower his 2023 cap hit to $19 million. Guaranteed. — Jack Jackson, Browns staff writer

How Watson stacks up

Watson was nowhere near as good as the Browns had hoped. The numbers are consistent with that sentiment.

Watson ranks 28th in the league in expected points allowed per dropback this season, via TruMedia, with a -0.16 rate. This season he was last in the league in points in this category. He ranks 29th with a 61.4 completion percentage.

From Week 13 last season (Watson’s first game with the Browns) to now, he ranks 31st in EPA (-0.15), 29th in completion percentage (59.8) and 27th in passer rating (81.7) among 34 QBs passing.

Walker has been awful as a quarterback this season, even though the Browns somehow managed to score two wins in the process. Walker has a -0.19 EPA rating, 51.3 passer rating and 49.0 percent completion rate.

Browns with and without Watson

Statistics With Watson Without Watson

Yards per play

5.1 (NFL Ranking: T-17)

4.1 (NFL Rank: 31)

Yards per pass attempt

6.5 (NFL Rank: 25)

5.5 (NFL Ranking: T-31)

Yards per rush

4.6 (NFL Ranking: T-5)

3.7 (NFL Ranking: T-26)

You have to wonder how the Browns stay in the playoff hunt without even a mediocre Watson at quarterback. – Larry Holder, veteran NFL writer


Watson, who played in six games this season, suffered a right shoulder injury in Week 3 and sat out Weeks 4 and 6. Cleveland was eliminated in Week 5.

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Watson returned in Week 7 against the Indianapolis Colts. However, he left that game in the first quarter after trainers checked his arm and shoulder, and coach Kevin Stefanski said he was being extra cautious with Watson’s shoulder.

Since then, Watson has played in the Browns’ wins over the Arizona Cardinals and Ravens. He finished the season throwing for 1,115 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions.

Thompson-Robinson has thrown for 130 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions this season. He is 0-1 as a starter this season, while Walker is 1-1. Walker has recorded one touchdown and five interceptions on 98 pass attempts.

Required reading

(Photo: Jessica Rapfogel / USA Today)

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