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Deshaun Watson trade rumors had been the name of the game around the NFL water cooler for pretty much the entire offseason. That changed on a dime back in March when allegations of sexual assault were levied in his direction.
Since then, roughly 20 women have come forth with allegations with multiple civil cases pending. Meanwhile, local authorities in Houston have opened a criminal investigation into the reigning NFL passing champion.
The backdrop here was initial interest from the Carolina Panthers in Watson prior to them opting to acquire Sam Darnold on Monday.
“Panthers were team that had the strongest interest in Deshaun Watson. With legal situation everyone has largely pulled out,” NFL insider Benjamin Allbright noted on Monday. “Move allows Carolina add to the QB room without taking them out of it if Watson found innocent and comes available in 2022.”
Will the Carolina Panthers be able to move Deshaun Watson?
At this point, that seems highly unlikely. Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper was desperate to land Watson before the above-mentioned allegations became public record. The organization then decided to move off a potential Watson trade in favor of acquiring a lesser quarterback in Sam Darnold.
Since then, the 49ers opted to pay a huge bounty to move up to the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft for a quarterback. Said package, sent to the Miami Dolphins, was eerily similar to what the Panthers’ asking price has been for Deshaun Watson. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that these allegations of sexual assault forced the 49ers to move off a potential Watson trade.
Fair or not, no team is going to give up much for a quarterback who is facing serious allegations off the field. It’s also interesting to note that Houston has changed its tone when it comes to a potential Watson trade. It previously pushed back against even listening to offers. That’s apparently no longer the case.
Watson, 25, is seen as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Last season saw him complete 70.2% of his passes with north of 5,000 total yards while throwing 33 touchdowns against just seven interceptions. If Watson is cleared, there’s a chance that an interested team will come calling. For now, he’s not a tradable commodity.
As for the Panthers, they sent a sixth-round pick in 2021 as well as second and fourth-round selections in 2022 for Sam Darnold on Monday. The hope here is that he turns the corner after struggling through his first three NFL seasons with the New York Jets.
This comes after Carolina missed out on acquiring Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions prior to his trade to the Los Angeles Rams earlier in the offseason. Previous suggestions were that the Panthers might be looking to move up from the eighth pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. That’s obviously no longer the case.
Darnold will likely replace Teddy Bridgewater as the Panthers’ starting quarterback. After all, they have already decided to pick up his option for the 2022 season. That comes in at just below $24 million, making Darnold the Panthers’ franchise quarterback in the process.