The Carolina Panthers have not shied away from their pursuit of Deshaun Watson, showcasing interest in the Houston Texans quarterback long before a grand jury decided he wouldn't face criminal charges for his alleged sexual misconduct. With part of the investigation resolved, Carolina is expected to make an "aggressive" offer for Watson once he waives his no-trade clause (per ESPN).
Carolina attempted to trade for Watson before the 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct in massage sessions came to light. The ongoing cases made it difficult for the league and the Texans to take any action regarding a possible suspension or trade, which halted trade discussions with the Panthers (or any team). Watson was not placed on the Commissioner's Exempt List because the league couldn't conclude that a major violation occurred.
Carolina will still pursue Watson if a possible suspension is looming, as the NFL could determine Watson violated the league's personal code of conduct. The Panthers have been unsettled at quarterback since Matt Rhule took over as head coach in the 2020 season, taking a chance on Sam Darnold last season. Darnold completed just 59.9% of his passes for 2,527 yards with nine touchdown and 13 interceptions (71.9 rating) in 12 games for the Panthers last season.
With Rhule sporting a 10-23 record after two seasons in Carolina and in dire need of a strong season to salvage his job, the Panthers' pursuit of an improved option at quarterback is necessary.
Watson's football resume is accomplished for a quarterback that just turned 26 last year. He's the first player in NFL history to record consecutive seasons with 25-plus passing touchdowns and five-plus rushing touchdowns. Watson is also the first player in NFL history to surpass 10,000 career passing yards and 1,000 career rushing yards in his first 40 career games and the first player in league history to record over 70 passing touchdowns and 15 rushing touchdowns in his first 40 games.
Watson led the NFL in passing yards (4,823) and yards per attempt (8.9) in 2020, his last full season. He owns a career passer rating of 104.5, trailing only Patrick Mahomes for the highest in NFL history.
The Panthers are one of several teams believed to be interested in Watson, joining the Buccaneers, Saints, and Eagles as other teams reportedly willing to acquire the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback.