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Carolina Panthers expected to be involved in Deshaun Watson trade talks

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers are coming off their fourth consecutive defeat, an ugly 25-3 loss at the hands of the New York Giants. It’s a game that saw quarterback Sam Darnold benched for P.J. Walker after struggling big time.

At 3-4 on the season, Carolina is not ready to give up on it playoff aspirations. Enter into the equation star Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who could be dealt ahead of the Nov. 2 NFL trade deadline.

According to this report from Panthers insider Joe Person, the team is expected to be involved in Watson trade talks over the next week or so.

This isn’t too big of a surprise. Panthers owner David Tepper spearheaded the team’s previous interest in Watson prior to the reigning NFL passing yards leader being accused by north of 20 women of sexual assault and/or misconduct. Once those allegations became public record, things died down on this front.

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Can the Carolina Panthers pull off a Deshaun Watson trade?

carolina panthers interested in deshaun watson trade
Sep 29, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans defensive end Angelo Blackson (97) hugs Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) after the Carolina Panthers defeated the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

As rumors about Watson potentially being traded started to heat up, suggestions were that he might be headed to the Miami Dolphins. Of course, Carolina has joined Miami as one of the teams most bandied about in trade talks ever since Watson requested to be moved during the spring.

At issue here for Carolina is the presence of the aforementioned Darnold. After acquiring him from the New York Jets this past off-season, the Panthers picked up the $18.8 million option on his deal for the 2022 campaign.

In today’s salary cap era, it’s hard to afford two quarterbacks who make a ton of cash. Remember, Watson is playing under a four-year, $156 million deal he signed with Houston immediately ahead of the 2020 campaign. His cap hit for the 2022 campaign is set to be $40.4 million.

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Complicating things further for the Carolina Panthers is the likely scenario that Houston won’t want Darnold in any trade for Watson. Once reports concluded Miami wanted to acquire Watson broke, it was also concluded that the Texans have no desire to trade for current Dolphins starter Tua Tagovailoa. There’s no reason to believe that Houston would then have interest in Darnold.

carolina panthers' sam darnold to be involved in deshaun watson trade?
Carolina quarterback Sam Darnold was taken out of the game in the fourth quarter as the Carolina Panthers faced the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on October 24, 2021 (Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK)

As for compensation heading to Houston in a potential Watson blockbuster, the expectation is that it will still cost multiple first-round picks, more early-round selections and at least a player or two.

The Carolina Panthers still owe New York their second-round pick in 2022 in the aforementioned Darnold trade. That also complicates things to an extent.

What we do know is that Tepper has been at the forefront of Carolina’s interest in Watson. He wants to give head coach Matt Rhule that franchise quarterback to work with moving forward. For Tepper, the idea is to repeat the success he saw as the minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers when Ben Roethlisberger was in his prime.

Whether that happens here in the next week remains to be seen. It’s certainly something to watch with the NFL trade deadline set for a week from Tuesday.

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