Panthers are quietly keeping an eye on Deshaun Watson

Sport

The Texans want to trade quarterback Deshaun Watson. For now, however, they haven’t gotten an offer that they’re willing to accept.

The number of teams interested in Watson remains unclear. The Eagles definitely are. The Dolphins aren’t believed to be. The Broncos seem to be willing to ride with Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater for 2021, content to explore their options for 2022 when 2022 comes.

Per a league source, the Panthers quietly are keeping an eye on Watson. Yes, they traded for Sam Darnold and picked up his 2022 option. Owner David Tepper nevertheless is committed to finding a long-term franchise quarterback. Watson has the skill to become that guy, and Tepper — who made his money buying low and selling high — could be inclined to make a move if Watson’s contract can be secured at a reasonable amount.

The 22 civil lawsuits and 10 criminal complaints (two of which were filed by women who haven’t yet sued Watson) continue to provide a major potential impediment to his short- and long-term prospects. More than anything else, the expected presentation of evidence to a grand jury is giving teams pause.

For the Texans, the question becomes whether they’ll be willing to simply do the best deal they can and be done with it. Although G.M. Nick Caserio is, as one source recently explained it, concerned about making a trade that will look in hindsight like he’d been fleeced, there aren’t many clear alternatives to removing Watson, who’s currently the fourth-stringer on the depth chart, and his $45 million in salary over the next two years. Someone higher in the Houston organization could insist on unloading Watson’s contract for whatever Caserio can get.

By all appearances, the Texans are ready to move on from Watson. That attitude necessarily makes it much harder to get a huge return, especially with the pending legal problems.

Here’s another team that likely won’t get involved but given its coach’s current exasperation with his starting quarterback should at least make a phone call: the Vikings. Kirk Cousins plus conditional picks in 2022 and 2023 based on Watson’s availability over the next two seasons could make sense for both teams. It would give Minnesota a path out of a maze in which they’re otherwise stuck, and it would solve Houston’s QB4 problem, too.

This possibility raises plenty of obvious and important questions for both teams, given Houston’s apparent plan to proceed with Tyrod Taylor now and Davis Mills later and Minnesota’s intent to eventually turn things over to Kellen Mond. That said, it could be the best move for both teams given the longstanding friction between the Texans and Watson and the recent tension between Mike Zimmer and Cousins, based on his refusal to get vaccinated.