The Panthers' best trade ever might be the one they didn't get to make
There’s an old Garth Brooks song where he says that some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers. I think the Carolina Panthers, and all of us who root for them, should be thankful that the Panthers failed to sign Deshaun Watson.
Watson is clearly one of the best quarterbacks in football. But the reason one of the best quarterbacks in football was available is that 22 women had sued Watson, claiming various levels of sexual misconduct after he had arranged with them to get a massage.
Despite that, the Panthers and several other teams were willing to pay a gigantic ransom to pry Watson from the Houston Texans. The Cleveland Browns ended up winning the contest for Watson in March, trading away a package that included three first-round picks, which are like bars of gold in the NFL. As a topper, the Browns signed Watson to a five-year contract for $230 million — and every penny of it is guaranteed, making it the largest guaranteed contract in NFL history.
I suspect the Browns, and the other teams that wanted Watson, would hope the story ended there.
Last week the New York Times’ Jenny Vrentas reported that Watson saw at least 66 different massage therapists in a 17-month period — basically a different one every week. So many of them tell versions of the same story. Watson asked for a massage and then got naked, asking for sexual favors of one kind or another.
A few of those women complied. Others didn’t. Some of the women got lawyers — the number of civil suits is now up to 24.
It’s important to note a few things. Criminal cases against Watson were dismissed when a grand jury declined to indict him. He says he’s done nothing wrong, and some massage therapists have said there were no issues in their sessions with him.
But at some point, according to the Times, his former team provided Watson non-disclosure agreements that he was supposed to get the massage therapists to sign. That’s a pretty good signal that the team knew Watson had a problem.
The NFL makes its own rules when it comes to disciplining players — they don’t have to rely on a court’s decision. I would say, after this latest story, that there’s a decent chance he could be suspended for a year or more. In fact, if you could lay a bet in Vegas that he will never play in the NFL again, I’d put 10 bucks on it.
In short, the Browns might have mortgaged their football future and their morality for nothing.
According to various reports, the Panthers were willing to do the same thing — the only difference being that Panthers owner David Tepper wouldn’t fully guarantee Watson’s contract.
I would say that’s wise. But I don’t think the Panthers get to claim wisdom, or high ground of any kind, when they went after Watson so hard in the first place.
The NFL loves a good story, so in the first game of the upcoming season, the Panthers play … the Cleveland Browns. So in a sense, the Panthers will get to see the future they wanted for themselves.
I suspect one thing they won’t see is Deshaun Watson on the field.