It was easy to lose sight of it in the midst of Tuesday’s flurry of free-agent activity, but of all the moves we’ve seen so far, Houston’s signing of former Chargers and Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor may be the most fascinating domino to fall yet. Taylor’s reported $12-million salary would suggest the Texans view him as a potential starter, an indication the team could be preparing for life after Deshaun Watson. The Texans have repeatedly denied the notion of Watson being available, though adding Taylor, a former Pro Bowler with 47 career starts under center, to the fold would suggest Houston is, at the very least, open to imagining a future without their disgruntled franchise quarterback.
Many teams have been linked to Watson since the 25-year-old issued a formal trade request in January with Chicago, Denver, Miami, New York (Jets, not Giants), and San Francisco each mentioned as plausible landing spots for the reigning NFL passing yards leader. But of Watson’s countless suitors, the most desperate of all might be the Carolina Panthers, who are reportedly dead-set on acquiring the 2017 first-rounder. Per beat reporter Joe Person, owner David Tepper is enamored with Watson, viewing him as “Plan A, B and C.” Person also added that Tepper, who purchased the Panthers for a record $2.2 billion after longtime owner Jerry Richardson sold the team amid a misconduct scandal in 2018, “doesn’t like to be told no.”
Clearly, the Panthers are looking to improve on their current starter, Teddy Bridgewater, who led Carolina to a dismal 5-11 record last season despite contributing 20 touchdowns (15 passing, five rushing) and completing over 69 percent of his passes. Tepper outbid the Giants for coach Matt Rhule last offseason (New York later pivoted to former Patriots special teams coordinator Joe Judge) and the hedge-fund billionaire apparently plans to take a similarly brash approach in pursuing Watson this offseason. Though Watson doesn’t have any specific ties to Charlotte, the Georgia native played his college ball at ACC powerhouse Clemson (about two hours west of Charlotte), where locals embraced him as an area legend.
According to Person, a trio of first-round picks would likely serve as the “starting point” for Carolina in trade talks for Watson. While Watson may prefer the opportunities presented in Denver and San Francisco, he’d have plenty of weapons at his disposal in Carolina with D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson both going over 1,000 yards receiving last season. Running back Christian McCaffrey, who missed all but three games last year due to injury, also has a 1,000-yard receiving season on his resume.
While a Watson trade may not be imminent, Person expects the Texans to move him sometime prior to next month’s NFL Draft, scheduled to take place April 29th-May 1st.