We sit a little more than a week ahead of Super Bowl LV, which features two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
It’s another quarterback, however, who is the talk of the football world: Deshaun Watson.
The Houston Texans star requesting a trade has jumpstarted Speculation Season a tad earlier than the course of a normal year. But with the cat out of the bag, let’s zoom down Rumor Trail.
Outside a handful of NFL teams, most clubs should at least consider making a call on Watson. With a no-trade clause, Watson holds the ultimate leverage on his potential destination. Nonetheless, it would behoove most clubs to at least gauge the temperature of a potential trade.
One club that appears to be near the top of the list of suitors: the Carolina Panthers.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday on NFL NOW that the Panthers will be “aggressive” in pursuit of the 25-year-old QB.
“Don’t sleep on the Carolina Panthers,” Rapoport said. “They are a team that I’m told is going to be aggressive in potentially acquiring Deshaun Watson.”
The Panthers have a lot to like. It’s a relatively young roster with room to grow. There are young studs on defense (Brian Burns, Jeremy Chinn) . The offense has high-caliber weapons (Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson).
Matt Rhule is a smart, motivational coach who could mesh well with Watson. The coach has also sent strong signals this offseason that he’d like to upgrade the QB spot after up-and-down play from Teddy Bridgewater in 2020. We’d assume Rhule would be one hand pushing to acquire Watson.
Owner David Tepper could be another big factor in the Panthers’ favor. Tepper has the means and motivation to acquire a player like Watson and do all he can to keep the QB happy.
Sitting with the No. 8 overall pick, Carolina could offer a decent package to Houston.
If shipping him to the NFC is a priority for Houston, Carolina should be among the top contenders.
The Panthers won’t be the only ones bidding. Rapoport mentioned the Jets, Dolphins, Bears, and other suitors — the Colts could also make a call, but Houston trading Watson in the division seems unrealistic — along with most of the league.
Of course, all the speculation presumes the Texans will ultimately trade Watson. Houston could play hardball and force the young QB to sit out and fine him. The ramifications of doing so to a young star could be felt for years, but we’re months from that coming into play.
For now, what we know is Watson wants out of Houston. That opens a field of opportunities with much speculation, rumor, and daydreaming to be had from fanbases across the NFL.