Thursday, Deshaun Watson officially requested a trade from the Texans. Watson, who has a no-trade clause, listed both the Jets and Dolphins as his preferred destinations. However, Ian Rapoport reports that the Panthers are also expected to aggressively pursue Watson.
Thus far, the Panthers are the first team named as an expected aggressor. Earlier on Thursday, Coach Matt Rule took a dig at Teddy Bridgewater, saying that teams want a QB who has a “history of making plays in crucial situations.”
The Panthers can make a strong case to both the Texans and Watson. Don’t underestimate the value of the Panthers residing out of conference. Teams never want to trade quality players – let alone superstars — to an in-conference team. And for Watson, the NFC provides a brighter future.
The AFC is loaded with young QBs who would challenge Watson over the next decade. Obviously, there is Patrick Mahomes, but there is also Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, Joe Burrow, and Derek Carr. Soon, Trevor Lawrence will join the already-stacked list as a Jaguar.
The two QBs to make the NFC Championship Game this season, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, are 43 and 37 respectively. In two seasons, Brady could retire and the Packers could move on to Jordan Love. Aside from Russell Wilson, 32, and Kyler Murray, 23, the rest of the NFC is made up of a lot of average QBs.
While the 49ers and Bears are better NFC fits for Watson to win now, both teams could have trouble convincing the Texans to agree to a deal. The Panthers could send Houston the 8th overall pick and two more future 1st rounders. Additionally, should the Texans draft a QB who isn’t quite ready to go Year One, Teddy Bridgewater could be of interest for Houston.
Carolina has weapons for Watson as well. Christian McCaffrey and Watson would be the best 1-2 punch in the NFL. On the outside, DJ Moore is a stud 23-year-old WR, and Robby Anderson is coming off a career year. The Panthers have a young, scrappy roster that lost to the Chiefs by just two points this season.
The Jets, on the other hand, have the most draft capital to offer the Texans, but the roster has nothing promising and would not be a playoff team, even with Watson. The Dolphins’ interest in Watson is unclear.
If forced to predict, I’d guess the Texans try to make their relationship with Watson work. The team still holds most of the leverage. However, if it can’t be repaired, the Panthers should receive strong consideration as a trade partner.