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Deshaun Watson to Carolina Panthers: Trade rumors, speculation, projected 2021 team outlook

Sep 29, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) attempts a pass during the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers are fully committed to upgrading their quarterback situation during the 2021 offseason, and Deshaun Watson is rumored to be their primary target.

Granted, it’d take a massive trade and parting with numerous draft assets and perhaps a couple veteran stars to land the Houston Texans superstar. However, the latest buzz out of Charlotte and around the NFL suggests the Panthers won’t rest until Watson is in Carolina.

Let’s take a closer look at what the latest word is on Watson leaving the Texans for the Panthers, and gauge how much his arrival would impact Carolina’s fortunes for next season.

Deshaun Watson to Carolina Panthers trade rumors

Multiple reports have come out that imply the Panthers will do just about anything to bring Watson aboard.

The strongly-worded rhetoric from sources in the know about Carolina’s pursuit of Watson and a quarterback upgrade in general ranges from “pay any price” for Watson to “scour the earth” for someone way better than Teddy Bridgewater.

Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated is the latest, notable national reporter to reveal what he’s hearing about the Panthers. What’s he hearing? Well, Carolina owner David Tepper is practically tripping over himself:

“I asked one well-placed source this week about something I’d heard for about a month now—that owner David Tepper was consumed with the idea of finding a long-term answer at the position. ‘More like obsessed,’ was the response I got. And so the idea of Deshaun Watson becoming a Panther? Obviously, that is of great interest to everyone in Charlotte, with the boss being at the top of the list.”

Albert Breer on Panthers owner David Tepper’s desire for a Deshaun Watson trade

It’s pretty clear at this point that among the most viable destinations that have been bandied about, Carolina seems like it’ll be the most adamant about getting its guy to lead the franchise into a new era.

What also helps is that Watson hails from nearby Georgia and is obviously heading to an organization willing to do all it can to build a sustainable winner around him.

Read More: Jalen Ramsey says Deshaun Watson is unlikely to play for Texans

Speculation, local buzz about Deshaun Watson to Carolina Panthers

Speculation, local buzz about Deshaun Watson to Carolina Panthers
Sep 29, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the Carolina Panthers at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The foremost authority on Texans football coverage, the Houston Chronicle‘s John McClain, was against a Watson trade for a while, but recently acknowledged the reality and inevitability of it all. However, McClain also dismissed the Panthers as a trade partner due to them owning the eighth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft:

First of all, does McClain know it’s legal to make another trade to move further up in the draft, with any of the presumed treasure trove of assets acquired in a prospective Watson trade?

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It’s not like Bridgewater was going to be an appealing trade chip, so the second bit McClain refers to about the veteran signal-caller not viewed as an appealing option by the Texans is rather self-explanatory.

As for the Panthers’ side of things, The Athletic’s Joseph Person has reported Carolina is going to stay “aggressive” and “have an idea of how high they’re willing to go” to get Watson.

According to the other buzz we’ve touched on, it seems the Panthers are indeed open to incurring a prohibitive cost as long as it means they get the 25-year-old signal-caller who just led the NFL in passing yards in 2020.

Read More: NFL rumors: Chicago Bears won’t rule out blockbuster Deshaun Watson trade

Carolina Panthers 2021 outlook with Deshaun Watson at QB

Carolina Panthers 2021 outlook with Deshaun Watson at QB
Aug 9, 2017; Charlotte, NC, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) passes the ball during the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
  • Panthers trade package for Deshaun Watson: Three 1st-round picks, RB Christian McCaffrey, DE Brian Burns

There’s a good chance Houston is going to demand multiple proven players in addition to several premium draft assets in exchange for Watson. That is, if the team doesn’t wait too long and tank his trade value.

Given the Texans’ reluctance to strike a deal and that so many other teams will be interested in acquiring Watson’s services, the Panthers are going to need to overpay in order to make this work.

Although that means parting with a potential defensive cornerstone in Burns and an All-Pro running back in McCaffrey — not to mention three years’ worth of first-rounders — they’ll have a legitimate top-five quarterback in Watson, paired with one of the brightest young offensive minds in the league in Panthers play-caller Joe Brady.

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McCaffrey’s production as a pass-catcher out of the backfield can’t really be replaced. However, Watson would still have two excellent receivers in DJ Moore and Robby Anderson in this scenario, and Carolina just spent all its 2020 draft picks on the defensive side of the ball, so that unit should collectively take a big step forward in 2021.

There’s also still enough flexibility under the salary cap for the Panthers to acquire new veteran talent and retain some of their other key pieces. Right tackle Taylor Moton is a prime franchise tag candidate, and Watson would probably want Carolina to do whatever it could to re-sign left tackle Russell Okung.

Because of the unique, strapped cap situation all 32 teams are dealing with, it stands to reason Watson’s presence would incentivize free agents all the more to take backloaded contracts in anticipation of the cap going way up in 2022.

If Carolina pulls off the Watson trade and can add another decent starter in Round 2 of the draft, the team will have the inside track for second place in the NFC South behind the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’d probably mean a wild card playoff berth, too.

With the New Orleans Saints rebuilding and facing an uncertain quarterback situation and the Atlanta Falcons in the midst of a regime change, Watson’s arrival in Charlotte would change the landscape of the division, and of course, the entire NFL.

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