What you need to know about Deshaun Watson and the Panthers’ potential interest

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As Sam Darnold continues to struggle, the talks surrounding Deshaun Watson and the Panthers’ pursuit of him will only heat up.

The Panthers hadn’t engaged in any trade talks with the Texans for Watson up until Sunday’s game. That likely changes now. The Panthers left Sunday’s game knowing that they have to do something.

Darnold was benched Sunday after finishing 16-of-25 passing for 111 yards and an interception — his seventh pick thrown in the past four games, all of which the Panthers have lost.

What should Carolina make of the Watson situation? Here are some answers to questions you may have:

What are the allegations against Watson?

Watson is involved in 22 different civil lawsuits from women alleging sexual assault and that he exhibited inappropriate behavior with multiple massage therapists.

His lawyer has denied all wrongdoing. The NFL and the Houston Police Department are investigating.

Is Deshaun Watson suspended?

No. However, if he were to join a new team that wanted to make him active, the NFL could place him on the commissioner’s exempt list while they investigate. He could miss the entire season.

Have the Panthers expressed interest?

Yes, the Panthers have long been interested. The Panthers attempted to engage with the Texans in trade talks for Watson this past offseason before they got Darnold in a trade.

But the Texans refused to pick up the phone, and interest died down when the allegations against him came to light.

Is Deshaun Watson interested in joining the Panthers

It is unclear whether Watson has interest in joining the Panthers. He has a no-trade clause in his contract, meaning he would have to approve whatever team he is traded to.

It has been reported that he would approve going to Miami, and is willing to consider other options.

When is the NFL trade deadline?

Nov. 2.

How much would a trade for Deshaun Watson cost?

A trade for Watson would cost at least three first-round draft picks and would likely be the biggest trade in recent NFL history. The Rams sent two first-round draft picks, a third-round pick and Jared Goff to the Lions in exchange for Matthew Stafford.

Watson is considered a better quarterback than Stafford and seven years younger. Watson is 26 and is now entering his prime.

Downsides

The message it sends to the world, especially if the allegations against Watson are true. When David Tepper bought the Panthers from longtime owner Jerry Richardson, who had become engulfed in a scandal of his own where he was accused of racial and sexual misconduct, Tepper vowed to change the workplace culture he inherited.

Watson may not even be available to a team when he’s traded. The NFL could choose to put him on the commissioner’s exempt list until they conclude their investigation.

If the allegations are proven true, the NFL could later suspend him.

It will cost a fortune. The Panthers would have to forfeit at least three first-round draft picks. The Panthers are already without their 2022 second-, third- and fourth-round draft picks.

They traded away the second- and fourth-round picks to the Jets for Darnold. They traded their third-round pick in the Dan Arnold-C.J. Henderson deal.

A quarterback alone will help but won’t fix the Panthers’ problems. Their offensive line is bad, the playcalling hasn’t worked and the receivers have struggled.

What has Matt Rhule said about it

Rhule was asked directly about the Panthers’ interest in Watson and whether he would contact the Texans.

“You guys know that wasn’t from me,” Rhule said in regards to a report indicating the Panthers would pursue Watson. “I really have nothing to add to that. My focus is on this team. We are a 3-4 football team right now. And we’ve got to find a way to win this week.”

He said Darnold will remain the starter for Week 8 against the Atlanta Falcons.

“What our team doesn’t need right now is a distracted coach,” Rhule said. “They need me focused on the matter at hand, and that’s finding a way to win.”

What is Deshaun Watson’s salary cap number?

Watson has a $15.9 million cap number for 2021, according to overthecap.com. It increases to $40.4 million in 2022. He’s signed through the 2025 season.

What is Sam Darnold’s cap number

Darnold counts $4.7 million against the cap this year. However, the Panthers picked up the fifth-year option on his contract prior to the season.

He’s due $18.8 million, with all but $300,000 guaranteed in 2022. Moving on from him would be difficult financially if Carolina couldn’t find a team to trade with that wanted to take on his contract.

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