The Miami Dolphins seem to be front runners in the market for Deshaun Watson, but not far behind are the Carolina Panthers, and they’re willing to give up their franchise player to land him.
Per Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, Panthers owner David Tepper still wants to trade for Watson, and is willing to include running back Christian McCaffery in the package, but even that may not be enough.
Houston is reportedly looking for at the least, three first-round picks, and McCaffery being part of a package which doesn’t include three first rounders may not even be enough.
“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.”
Even if the Texans agree to a trade with a team, Watson would have to waive the no-trade clause to be sent to Carolina. Watson reportedly still favors Miami.
Per ProFootballTalk, McCaffery being included in a package isn’t as tempting as it seems for the Texans.
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.