The Cleveland Browns have mortgaged their future to win now by pushing the button on a blockbuster trade with the Houston Texans for Deshaun Watson that will inevitably lead to Baker Mayfield moving on soon.
The Browns, who are 9/5 to win the AFC North, are the first team to give up three first-round picks in a deal since the Minnesota Vikings concluded a three-team, 18-player deal with the Dallas Cowboys to acquire running back Hershel Walker in 1989.
The full package of picks that the Texans will receive for Watson will include 2022, 2023 and 2024 first-rounders in addition to a 2023 third-rounder and a 2024 fourth-rounder.
The Atlanta Falcons had pushed past the Browns and New Orleans Saints to the head of the queue for Watson's services after the Georgia native let the Carolina Panthers know they were out of the running.
But in what ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter described as a "stunning change of events", the quarterback chose Cleveland to be his next career destination.
Texans general manager Nick Caserio explained his reasons for making the trade in a statement through the team's media.
"I felt it was the right move for our organization as we head into the new league year focused on building our roster for the 2022 season," Caserio said. "Our priority right now is adding talented players to the foundation we have already put in place over the last 15 months and this trade supports that plan."
The Texans are expected to build around their 2021 third-round pick Davis Mills at quarterback while four-season Browns starter Mayfield will be made available for a trade elsewhere.
Watson is to receive a five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million contract from the Browns, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.