Carolina Panthers expected to pursue Deshaun Watson trade this offseason

Deshaun Watson, Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers coveted a Deshaun Watson trade this offseason but interest in a blockbuster deal cooled off following 22 civil suits alleging sexual misconduct and assault filed against him.. With another disappointing season approaching a conclusion in Carolina, the Panthers might revisit that pursuit.

Since David Tepper bought the franchise for an NFL record $2.275 billion in 2018, he was determined to find a new face of the franchise. Carolina signed Teddy Bridgewater to a $63 million contract in March 2020 and traded him a year later.

Seeing the Bridgewater deal backfire, Tepper and head coach Matt Rhule made another big move. On April 5, Carolina traded its 2022 second- and fourth-round picks to the New York Jets for quarterback Sam Darnold. By early November, the Panthers realized acquiring Darnold and guaranteeing his $18.858 million salary in 2022 was a bad decision.

Changes are already underway in Carolina. Rhule fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady and the franchise will be in the quarterback market again this spring. Given the changes already made, it’s viewed as a sign that a trade with the Texans might be back on the table.

NFL insider Charles Robinson shared on the Yahoo Sports’ “You Play to Win the Game” podcast that he would be stunned if Carolina isn’t pushing for a Deshaun Watson trade this offseason, as long as the legal issues are figured out.

“Tepper has been very aggressive already, in terms of being involved in that quarterback search. This only makes me think…I would be stunned if they do not really, really push hard in the Deshaun Watson stuff this offseason, depending on how it turns out for Deshaun Watson.”

Yahoo Sports NFL insider Charles Robinson on Carolina Pantheres interest in Deshaun Watson, via “You Pod to Win the Game” podcast

The criminal, FBI and NFL investigations into the allegations against Watson are all ongoing. As for the pending civil suits, depositions are underway but there are no signs of a settlement that could resolve the matter and push Watson one step closer towards resuming his career.

Notably, it was reported in November that the Miami Dolphins came close to landing Watson. The Pro Bowl quarterback would only waive his no-trade clause for Miami and the franchise was ready to give up a massive collection of assets and first-round picks for him.

But the Texans reportedly backed out of negotiations after learning Watson would settle the 22 civil suits if he was traded to Miami. If that happened, the NFL then could have stepped in and suspended Watson with estimates suggesting he could be banned four-to-six games.

If Tepper is desperate to land a young quarterback who can play at an elite level for years to come, Watson is the best option for the Panthers. But it will come at the cost of at least three first-round picks and will send a signal to fans about what alleged behavior the team is willing to accept if it means winning a few more games.

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