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USATSI

Fresh off their fourth straight loss, a 22-point defeat that saw coach Matt Rhule bench quarterback Sam Darnold early in the fourth quarter in an effort to "spark" the offense, the Panthers are now expected to pursue Deshaun Watson ahead of the Nov. 2 trade deadline. That's according to The Athletic's Joe Person, who reported Sunday that both league and team sources anticipate the Texans signal-caller being on Carolina's radar.

CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora reported earlier in October that the Panthers were mulling a potential trade for Watson amid Darnold's struggles as the starting QB, and earlier on Sunday La Canfora reported that the Texans are hopeful of being very active at the trade deadline. Days ago, The Athletic indicated Carolina had, in fact, engaged in recent talks with the Texans but suggested those talks were not "substantial," at least compared to reported negotiations with the Dolphins -- another long-speculated Watson destination.

And yet Darnold has struggled mightily since the Panthers opened the season 3-0. During the four-game losing streak, the former Jets first-rounder, acquired this offseason in a swap of multiple draft picks, has thrown just four touchdowns and seven interceptions. Rhule told reporters after Sunday's loss that Darnold will remain the starter in Week 8, but only after pulling the QB for backup P.J. Walker trailing 15-3.

It's still unclear what the Texans would be willing to accept in a deal for Watson, who has privately maintained trade requests since this offseason. It's also unclear whether Watson will face NFL discipline; the former Pro Bowler remains under investigation by the league while facing 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault or misconduct.

"But with Darnold having his struggles," La Canfora reported this month, "and (team owner David) Tepper wildly driven to win and accustomed to having a Hall of Fame quarterback (as a minority owner in Pittsburgh, he was there for Ben Roethlisberger's rise), and the trade deadline now (approaching), it's a prospect worth monitoring. For all of the talk about the Dolphins and Watson, Tepper isn't used to not getting his man, and if he were to set his sights on Watson, I wouldn't bet against him doing what it takes to secure the deal."