Tom Brady Retirement: Why Buccaneers return raises stakes for Saints-Panthers race for Texans’ Deshaun Watson

With Tom Brady coming out of retirement, the battle for Deshaun Watson will likely heat up between the Saints and Panthers.

With Tom Brady returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the trade race between the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers for Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson should get even more intense in the coming days. Brady’s short-lived retirement puts the Buccaneers back in control of the NFC South.

Tom Brady’s quick comeback should spark urgency on Watson’s trade market

Brady announced Sunday that he plans to play for the Buccaneers this season, despite retiring roughly two months ago. While Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians publicly backed impending free agent Blaine Gabbert and second-year prospect Kyle Trask as possible replacements for Brady, those notions can go back into safe hiding for the next year or so.

With Brady back in Tampa Bay, the NFC South’s power struggle is once again controlled by the Buccaneers, who are a little over a year removed from a Super Bowl championship win. The Buccaneers lost to the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, and Brady announced his retirement shortly after that loss. The Bucs can now plan their offseason around Brady, who made his decision before the free agency floodgates could open.

Now, the Saints and Panthers need to find a way to compete with the Bucs and Brady this season. Both squads have made trade offers to the Texans for Watson, who avoided criminal charges on nine criminal complaints that alleged sexual misconduct on Friday. Watson, who still faces 22 civil cases stemming from similar accusations, plans to meet with the Panthers and Saints in the coming days to determine whether he will drop his no-trade clause.

With Brady returning, the push for Watson within the division should be heightened. That means the trade packages offered up by the Saints and Panthers could be expanded as the Texans sort out their options. Ultimately, Watson will decide where he ends up, but if he likes both the Saints and the Panthers, the Texans could try to leverage both teams into big returns.

What future looks like for the Saints and Panthers without Watson?

The Saints, if they don’t land Watson, would be stuck looking for someone to overtake Taysom Hill at the position. Former starter Jameis Winston is set to become a free agent next week, and he is coming off ACL surgery.

The Panthers are in a similar predicament with draft bust Sam Darnold as the lone option on the current roster. In theory, the Panthers could target someone like Mitch Trubisky or a trade candidate like Derek Carr, but Watson clearly seems to be their preference.

While the Seattle Seahawks are also interested in Watson, the Panthers and Saints have made actual offers for Watson, as Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson has reported. The two NFC South squads are serious about acquiring Watson, and at this point, with Brady running the division again, they might be past the point of no return.

For the loser of the Watson sweepstakes, the future won’t look all that bright, even if the QB is likely to face some sort of suspension down the road.

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