(Berea) Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski is optimistic that Deshaun Watson will bounce back from his injury that limited him to six games in 2023 and believes he can be the elite quarterback the roster needs of Cleveland mortgaged its future.

Watson had surgery to treat a shoulder injury in November.

Although the center has lacked consistency – playing in just 12 of the club’s 34 games over the past two seasons – since joining the Browns, Stefanski believes Watson’s best is yet to come.

“We all know what he’s capable of and we’re excited for the future,” Stefanski said Sunday, the day after his team was eliminated with a 45-14 loss to the Houston Texans in the first elimination round.

Watson was on the sideline in Houston, where rookie C.J. Stroud threw three touchdown passes in the first half against the Browns’ defense, which was ranked first in the NFL at the end of the regular season.

Stefanski said Watson has progressed and expects him to be ready for mini-camp.

“I have confidence that it will be ready in the spring,” said the pilot. He’s champing at the bit, but he’s doing everything the doctors say he’s supposed to do during his rehab. »

The Browns traded three first-round selections to the Texans for Watson in March 2022 and gave him a record $230 million fully guaranteed contract.

After Watson’s injury, the Browns hired then-free agent Joe Flacco. At age 38, he went 4-1 in the regular season to lead the Browns to the playoffs.

His return, however, ended with two interceptions returned for touchdowns by the Texans. His significant impact during this short period, however, won over the players, some of whom want his return.

“I hope so,” running back Kareem Hunt said. Flacco is a great quarterback and a great leader, as Deshaun [Watson] could learn things from his experience. So I’m excited. If they can be teammates, that would be really cool. »