CHARLOTTE, NC — The Carolina Panthers will make an “aggressive” offer for Deshaun Watson as soon as the Houston quarterback waives his no-trade clause to trade with the Texans, a source has said. the league at ESPN.
A problem with lifting the clause is not expected, the source said.
The Panthers tried to trade for Watson, 26, early last offseason before reports surfaced 22 lawsuits and 10 criminal complaints of sexual misconduct against the three-time Pro Bowl selection. They backed off after that.
A grand jury in Houston voted on Friday not to indict Watson on criminal charges, leaving only the 22 civil lawsuits with charges of sexual assault and improper conduct during massage sessions against the former Clemson star.
This increased interest from many teams besides Carolina. Seattle, which earlier in the week traded Russell Wilson to Denver, should also make a good run for Watson, according to a source. New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Cleveland are also said to be interested.
Houston can agree to a trade at any time, but it can’t be made official until the league’s new year begins at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
All teams understand that the NFL could still suspend Watson for a certain number of games if it finds he violated the league’s personal code of conduct.
In 2010, Ben Roethlisberger of Pittsburgh was suspended for six games for violating the code of conduct after being accused of sexually assaulting a Georgia student after a night of drinking in Milledgeville, Georgia. This suspension was reduced to four games.
The Steelers went 12-4 in the regular season and reached the Super Bowl, where they lost 31-25 to Green Bay. Panthers owner David Tepper, who was a driving force behind Carolina’s pursuit of Watson, was a minority owner in Pittsburgh at the time.
“It’s the most important position on the field,” Tepper said of the quarterback in December 2021 when he fired general manager Marty Hurney with two games left in the season. “Unless you have this guy that gets you to the playoffs and the Super Bowl for sure, you have to keep re-evaluating that because that’s the only thing that matters is the Super Bowl.”
The Panthers attempted to improve the quarterback position last offseason after backing Watson. They made Detroit an offer for Matthew Stafford, who went to the Rams. They eventually traded to the New York Jets for Sam Darnold, who went 4-7 as a starter.
They also took the fifth-year option on Darnold, so Carolina is stuck with her $18.9 million cap in 2022.
As first reported by Pro Football Network, a source has confirmed that no team has done more due diligence investigating claims against Watson than Carolina. That’s why the team is comfortable moving forward.
The Texans have reportedly requested three first-round picks, additional draft picks and at least one player for Watson. The Panthers are ready to take a step that they believe will not mortgage the future, the source said.
The only untradeable player for Carolina appears to be safety Jeremy Chinn, who is entering his third year.
Of the teams interested in Watson, Carolina has the highest first-round pick (No. 6) in this year’s draft. Seattle selects ninth with Denver’s pick in the trade Wilson. Philadelphia has the 15th, 16th and 19th picks, New Orleans 18th, Pittsburgh 20th, Cleveland 13th and Tampa Bay 27th.
The Colts don’t have a first-round pick in 2022.
Houston already owns the No. 3 pick.
Whichever team acquires Watson will get a $35 million salary cap for 2022. The Panthers, with only about $31 million in cap space and only about $13 million to use for the free agency, can create enough space for it to work.
Watson, due to the no-trade clause, still has a say in where he goes. Since asking the Texans for a trade in January 2021, he’s reportedly only waived the clause for Miami.
The Dolphins have since stopped pursuing Watson, general manager Chris Grier said recently at the NFL meeting in Indianapolis.
Watson hails from Gainesville, Georgia, just over a three-hour drive from Charlotte, and played in Clemson, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Charlotte.
Watson, speaking to reporters at a press conference outside his lawyer’s office on Friday, said the past year has been “emotional for me”.
He offered no timetable for the sequel.
“I know we’re far from done dealing with what we have to deal with legally, but today is definitely a big day,” he said. “I thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ for making the truth heard. And I thank everyone involved in this for seeing and hearing both sides. That’s what my goal and my team wanted to do. , it’s having a fair list of we tell our side of the story and let the conclusion come to what happened today, and that’s what the grand jury has decided.
“I’m just going to keep fighting to rebuild my name and rebuild my appearance in the community. And legally dealing with what we have to deal with. But also ready to go out there and prepare for it.”