Watson is entering his first full season as Cleveland's starter. Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said the players voted on the captains.
"Deshaun, it's very, very natural for him to lead," Stefanski said. "And I think he's comfortable leading from out in front. I think he's comfortable from leading and letting his teammates get credit. That's just something he's always done his whole life. And just the way he's integrated himself into this football team is impressive to watch."
Watson was suspended 11 games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy after he was accused by more than two dozen women of sexual assault and sexual misconduct during massage sessions. Before the start of last season, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called Watson's behavior "predatory" and "egregious." Watson has settled 23 civil lawsuits against him. Two lawsuits remain active.
After the suspension, Watson returned for Cleveland's final six games last season. The Browns traded for Watson in March 2022. They sent the Houston Texans three first-round picks in the blockbuster deal, then gave Watson a new five-year contract worth an NFL-record $230 million fully guaranteed.
"From the moment he got here until now," Stefanski said of Watson, "just seeing how he's gotten to know everybody on his team, how he pushes them, how he motivates them, I think you're seeing a lot of examples of high-quality leadership from Deshaun in particular."
The Browns open the season Sept. 10 against the Cincinnati Bengals.