The Carolina Panthers are reportedly not interested in trading for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson as the trade deadline looms.
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule dismissed the trade talk around Watson and reiterated Sam Darnold's position as Carolina's long-term quarterback during the team's media availability ahead of Week 7 game against the New York Giants. Rhule told the New York Daily News:
"I haven’t done any work on anyone else. I believe Sam [Darnold] will be a great quarterback for the Carolina Panthers."
The Panthers did explore the possibility of acquiring Watson, but the discussions were not considered 'substantial.'
Rhule backed Darnold despite the team's recent slump. He said:
"I'm bought in on Sam. My biggest thing is making sure that me & Sean Ryan & Joe Brady do a better job of putting Sam in the best position. He's my focus & I expect him to play his best football moving forward. I'm not looking anywhere else."
Darnold spent his first three NFL seasons with the New York Jets before the Panthers acquired him in an offseason trade. He has had an up-and-down season with the Panthers despite a confident start to his first year in Carolina. On Sunday, the team fell 3-3 in 2021 following a defeat to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 6.
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Watson has been vocal about his desire to leave Houston since the offseason and has yet to play a game this year despite sitting on the Texans' 53-man roster.
Several NFL teams have reportedly explored the idea of acquiring a versatile quarterback. Still, only the Miami Dolphins held concrete conversations around wrapping up the deal as soon as this week.
The NFL is currently investigating Watson's sexual assault and misconduct allegations. The quarterback is facing 22 civil suits and ten criminal complaints. The NFL has not suspended Watson, nor has he been placed on the Commissioner's Exempt List.
But the widespread consensus around the league is that the NFL has refrained from disciplining Watson because the Texans have shown no interest in playing him this season.
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If a team does acquire Watson via trade and decides to play him this year, the NFL will likely step in and suspend the quarterback or place him on the Commissioner's Exempt List.