Watson, who is involved in 22 different civil lawsuits from women alleging that he exhibited inappropriate behavior with multiple massage therapists, has not played in a single game this season.
Trade talks have heated up for the quarterback in recent days. Multiple media reports indicate that the Miami Dolphins are front runners to acquire Watson and that a deal could come soon.
While Carolina is out of the Watson picture for now, it’s conceivable they could jump back into the frame, if Sam Darnold were to continue to struggle. The NFL’s trade deadline is Nov. 2.
Darnold, in his first season with the Panthers after being traded from the Jets in the offseason, has struggled in October. He has seven turnovers over the past three games and the Panthers (3-3) have lost all three of those games. Star running back Christian McCaffrey has been out for all of those games and is on injured reserve.
Darnold has thrown for 1,576 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions this season and has run for five touchdowns. He has completed 65% of his passes.
Coach Matt Rhule was asked Thursday in a conference call with New York media previewing Sunday’s game whether the Panthers would do their due diligence in exploring a Watson trade.
“I haven’t done any work on anyone else,” Rhule said. “I believe Sam (Darnold) will be a great quarterback for the Carolina Panthers.”
“I‘m bought in on Sam. My biggest thing is making sure that me and Sean Ryan and Joe Brady do a better job of putting Sam in the best position. He’s my focus and I expect him to play his best football moving forward. I’m not looking anywhere else.”
It’s no secret that Panthers owner David Tepper has been interested in Watson since it became known that the quarterback no longer wanted to play for the Texans.
But a Panthers-Texans deal for him never came close to fruition in the spring.
Last month, The Observer reported that Houston repeatedly shut down the Panthers’ many efforts to see what would be required to get the 26-year-old Watson, declining to even return the team’s phone calls earlier this offseason. The Panthers also tried unsuccessfully to trade with Detroit for Matthew Stafford, who ended up with the L.A. Rams. Carolina then traded with the New York Jets for Darnold in April and decided not to draft a quarterback with the No. 8 overall pick, instead selecting South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn.
Although Watson would have had to approve any trade to Carolina or anywhere else, the Panthers never got in touch with Watson’s agent to see if that could happen, The Observer reported. They wanted to see if Houston would engage with them first, and that never occurred. Houston was treating several other NFL teams the same way at the time.
The Texans continue to pay Watson’s $10.5 million salary while he sits out. In 2020, the former Clemson quarterback had one of the best years of any NFL quarterback, throwing 33 touchdown passes against only seven interceptions.
Through his attorney, Watson has denied all wrongdoing. The NFL, the FBI and the Houston Police Department continue to investigate.