Panthers not expected to pursue Deshaun Watson trade at this time

Deshaun Watson won't be the answer to the Carolina Panthers' midseason quarterback questions.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that owner David Tepper and the Panthers are not expected to pursue a Watson trade at this time, per sources informed of the situation.

Watson is currently facing 22 pending civil suits alleging sexual assault and misconduct during massage sessions, and an additional criminal investigation is underway. The QB has not been charged with a crime at this stage.

Watson has not played a down for the Houston Texans this season as the legal cases unfold. Prior to the civil suits being filed, Watson had requested a trade. With the Nov. 2 deadline for players to be traded approaching, questions have ramped up regarding whether a team would trade for the QB given the uncertainty surrounding his future.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday from the annual Fall League Meeting that the NFL does not feel it has the "necessary information at this point" to place Watson on the Commissioner's Exempt List.

Not only does the uncertain future hinder a Watson trade, but the quarterback's contract also includes a no-trade clause, so he could scuttle any swap if it's not to a desired location.

Rapoport reported that Watson has only waived his no-trade clause for the Miami Dolphins. Miami has reportedly been interested in Watson for months, despite the coaching staff firmly standing behind Tua Tagovailoa. The question is whether the Dolphins -- or any other team -- are willing to meet Houston's trade demands before the deadline.

Rapoport added that it's possible the Panthers could revisit acquiring Watson in the offseason. At that point, more of the legal situation is expected to unfold, and clubs would conceivably have a better idea of the quarterback's future.

Carolina became a rumored trade destination for Watson after coach Matt Rhule benched current starter Sam Darnold midway through Sunday's blowout loss to the New York Giants. The theory followed that Tepper, who has sought a franchise QB since buying the Panthers in 2018, might push for Watson. (Carolina was one of the early favorites to pursue Watson before the civil charges were filed in the spring).

"I'm focused on Sam and getting him back to the level he was playing at," Rhule said Wednesday, adding that the plan for Darnold to start Sunday remains in place, per ESPN.

For now, Rhule and the Panthers will attempt to right the ship after four straight losses have pushed a once 3-0 club to 3-4. Unless Darnold flips the script, expect Carolina to be right back here again in the offseason, trying to figure out an answer at quarterback.

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