It appears from reports that the Panthers still may not be scared off by the 22 active civil lawsuits against Deshaun Watson with accusations that range from inappropriate conduct to sexual assault.
The question might be whether the Texans’ star quarterback, who has been inactive all year wants the Panthers.
A report from CBS Sports on Saturday again linked Carolina with Watson, and said team owner David Tepper still has hope he can land his new franchise quarterback before Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline. This comes after NFL Network reported earlier this week that Houston would not pursue Watson this season because he has only waived his no-trade clause for the Dolphins.
The Texans’ asking price for the three-time Pro Bowler is astronomical, and the report suggests the Panthers could try to include star running back Christian McCaffrey, 25, to meet the demands. This probably would be impossible, as McCaffrey signed a four-year, $64 million contract in April 2020 that, Pro Football Talk reported, would trigger an $18.5 million cap charge in 2022 if he is traded.
Watson, 26, would arrive with a $35 million salary for next season, when the Panthers also have nearly $19 million fully guaranteed to Sam Darnold. The salary-cap gymnastics likely would not work.
Still, the Panthers could explore Watson trades without including McCaffrey — but would need to get Watson’s acceptance. He reportedly would waive his no-trade clause for the Dolphins, who have been the front-runners in the sordid sweepstakes, but there has not been a sign he would OK a deal with Carolina.
Tepper has “wanted him for a long time,” one source with knowledge of the situation told CBS Sports. “And there is still a lot of time between now and Tuesday. His patience is wearing thin.”
The lingering unknown is whether Watson would even be able to play for a team that trades for him. The NFL has yet to place him on the commissioner’s exempt list, but it is hard to fathom a person with as many outstanding lawsuits against him playing every Sunday. At least 10 women reportedly have filed criminal complaints against Watson, who has denied all allegations.