The Carolina Panthers are sitting at 3-3 on the season, fresh off of three straight losses. A key factor in those games? Sam Darnold throwing 6 interceptions. After starting the year on fire with his new team, he has cooled off. Do the Panthers have buyer’s remorse? According to what sources tell PFN Insider Tony Pauline, the Panthers may be eyeing Deshaun Watson as a potential replacement if things don’t turn around.
Update (10/27): Ian Rapoport reported that according to sources the Panthers are not expected to pursue Watson at this time.
Could the Panthers be in on a trade for Deshaun Watson?
After defeating the Jets, Saints, and Texans in the first three weeks of the season, the Panthers have since lost to the Cowboys, Eagles, and Vikings. Darnold has looked particularly bad in the last two games. At home against the Eagles, he completed 56.8% of his passes for 177 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions. He wasn’t any better when the Vikings traveled to Carolina the very next week. Darnold connected on just 41.5% of his attempts for 207 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT.
Carolina’s next two games before the November 2 trade deadline are road trips against the Atlanta Falcons (2-3) and New York Giants (1-5). If Darnold cannot right the ship against two flailing franchises, the Panthers might move on.
Although the Houston Texans finished 4-12 in 2020, Watson was lights out. He led the league in passing yards (4,823) and yards per attempt (8.9), was third in completion rate (70.2%), and threw 33 TDs to just 7 INTs.
Are the Panthers sold on Sam Darnold as their future?
Pauline was the first to break the news that Carolina owner David Tepper wanted to pursue Watson via trade prior to the allegations against the Texans QB coming to the forefront. At the time, Pauline stated:
“Now, the big noise I have heard over the past 24 hours comes from the Carolina Panthers. I spoke with someone last night, and we spoke about Deshaun Watson. This is a person in the know, and they told me that the Panthers will do anything they can to acquire Watson, and they will pay any price to acquire Deshaun Watson.”
Sources tell Pauline that if Darnold continues his poor play of the past three weeks, the Panthers could make a move for Watson. Tepper bought the team in 2018 after owning a minority stake in the Steelers since 2009. He’s used to success in the NFL, and he is not one to sit around while his team underperforms. In fact, while everyone expected Matt Rhule to be the next head coach of the New York Giants in 2020, Tepper had other ideas.
Sources also tell Pauline that if Carolina were to get involved in the Watson sweepstakes, it would likely be just before the trade deadline.
Understanding this, Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio may opt to wait another week or two to see if the Panthers enter the bidding war to drive up compensation. This, of course, makes sense, considering the Dolphins may be looking at a trade for Watson as well.
What would it take to trade for Watson?
According to reports throughout the offseason, the Texans are looking for around three first-round picks for Watson, if not more. A three-time Pro Bowler at the most important position in sports may just be worth such compensation.
Still, his 22 sexual assault lawsuits weigh heavily. Nevertheless, the Panthers don’t have an excess of draft capital to make a move. In 2022, they are without their second and third-round picks due to prior trades. Other than that, they have the usual allotment of selections in future years. Thus, if the Texans truly want — at a minimum — three first-round picks, Carolina would be severely hampered in the draft over the next few years.
However, none of it matters if Watson does not want to move to Carolina. He has a no-trade clause in his current contract. But reports state he is willing to waive his clause for teams like the Dolphins and Panthers.