The Carolina Panthers have reportedly been in contact with the Houston Texans this month about a deal for quarterback Deshaun Watson, according to Jonathan M. Alexander of The Charlotte Observer.
"But it’s far from a done deal. And while the Panthers are prepping in case they do decide to make a move, and have talked to a number of people as they try to understand Watson’s character, a final decision has not been made.
"A lot of factors are involved, and the Panthers are going to have a lot of options to weigh before making a decision that could come as soon as Monday — if Watson is cleared."
The news comes after Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network reported the Panthers were "all-in" on Watson and that owner David Tepper "previously hired an investigator to thoroughly look into Watson’s legal issues":
“Tepper has remained extremely interested in possibly acquiring Watson, who has a no-trade clause in his $156 million contract and would have to sign off on any possible trade, for over a year, according to sources. It is not a secret around the training facility of the NFC South franchise that the team is intrigued by the possibility of acquiring the former Clemson star.”
The Panthers have been linked to Watson since before last season. However, like many teams, Carolina is waiting to see what happens with the 22 civil lawsuits and 10 criminal complaints alleging sexual assault and misconduct filed against him.
Watson, who is expected to plead the Fifth Amendment during his deposition Friday, according to Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson, could be charged with a number of misdemeanor offenses in addition to second-degree felony sexual assault, which is punishable by two to 20 years in prison in Texas.
Watson has a full no-trade clause, and it's unclear if he would waive it to join the Panthers if his legal situation is cleared up. Carolina hasn't had a winning season since 2017.
Carolina's interest in Watson doesn't come as a surprise as they look for an upgrade at the quarterback position. The franchise acquired Sam Darnold from the New York Jets in April 2021, but he was inconsistent and struggled with injuries last season.
Darnold completed just 59.9 percent of his passes for 2,527 yards and nine touchdowns against 13 interceptions in 12 games. The Panthers were hoping a change of scenery would benefit the 2018 third overall pick, but that obviously wasn't the case.
Despite not playing in 2021, Watson would be a significant upgrade from Darnold. The three-time Pro Bowler had one of the best seasons of his career in 2020, completing 70.2 percent of his passes for 4,823 yards and 33 touchdowns against seven interceptions. He also ran for 444 yards and three scores.
However, the Panthers will likely face strong competition for Watson. Teams like the Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers could be make offers for the veteran after losing their star quarterbacks.