As of last Sunday, the Panthers had a real chance at getting quarterback Deshaun Watson. More recently, the Panthers have faded as a potential destination, to the point where the team put out word to multiple reporters on Wednesday that they were never even in it. The team’s owner, however, reportedly hasn’t given up on.
Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reports that David Tepper still wants to acquire Watson. La Canfora also reports, far too nonchalantly, that the Panthers are willing to include running back Christian McCaffrey in the trade package.
La Canfora quotes an unnamed source in support of his contention that Tepper remains intent on getting Watson. “The only reason that he doesn’t have Watson already is that the price is too high,” the source told La Canfora. “That’s it. He’s wanted him for a long time. And there is still a lot of time between now and Tuesday. His patience is wearing thin.”
That quote doesn’t accurately reflect the current circumstances, however. The asking price isn’t “the only reason” the trade hasn’t occurred. Watson also would have to waive his no-trade clause for the Panthers. For now, Watson wants Miami and only Miami.
La Canfora’s article never even mentions the no-trade clause. The article also doesn’t even mention the extremely significant financial consequences of doing a deal that would include getting Watson and giving up McCaffrey.
First, trading McCaffrey would trigger a cap charge of $18.5 million in 2022. Second, Watson would arrive with a fully-guaranteed base salary of $35 million in 2022. Third, current quarterback Sam Darnold has a fully-guaranteed base salary of $18.858 million for 2022.
That’s more than $72 million in 2022 cap dollars. That’s more than enough to make McCaffrey not a realistic factor, at all.
Then there’s the question of whether the Texans should want McCaffrey, or whether McCaffrey should want the Texans. He has played sparingly since signing his latest deal, due to injuries that aren’t his fault but that are inherent to the risks of the position. That said, the balance of McCaffrey’s contract has a manageable salary of $8.4 million for 2022. In 2023, the salary moves to $11.8 million. He gets the same amount in 2024, with a bump to $12 million in 2025, the final year of the deal.
Regardless, the Texans currently are shiftless and, in many respects, dysfunctional. Why would McCaffrey want to go from an average-at-best team to one of the worst in the league?
This doesn’t mean the Panthers have zero chance of getting Watson. That said, much would have to change in the next three days for it to happen. For starters, the Texans and Dolphins would have to fail to land the plane on a trade. Then, the Texans and Panthers would have to figure out an acceptable deal. Finally, Watson would have to be persuaded to embrace a trade to Carolina in lieu of sitting out the rest of the season and perhaps landing in Miami when March 2022 rolls around.
UPDATE 10:58 a.m. ET: A source with direct knowledge of the team’s thinking says that the Panthers have no plans to pursue Watson before the trade deadline, and that offering McCaffrey has never been considered.