Deshaun Watson rumors: Browns, Panthers out of running for QB, Saints have second meeting in attempt to trade

Deshaun Watson is expected to make a decision soon on which NFL team will call him their quarterback in 2022. With the grand jury choosing to not indict the former Pro Bowl quarterback on allegations of sexual misconduct, the door flies open for potential trade scenarios around the league. Having not suited up for the Houston Texans for a single snap last season, Watson is eager to find a new NFL home and there are no shortage of suitors — but you can now delete the Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers from the race.

Having met with Watson during the quarterback’s recent tour and with an offer submitted to the Texans, the Browns have been notified on Thursday morning they’re out of the running for Watson — per NFL Network and confirmed by CBS Sports NFL senior reporter Jonathan Jones. On Thursday evening, Watson continued to narrow his list by eliminating the Panthers a possible destination, per ESPN.

In the case of the Browns, this makes things that much more interesting regarding the now-fractured relationship between the team and former first-overall pick Baker Mayfield, who has since requested a trade. The organization — who has reportedly denied that trade request — will now try to double back and reassert Mayfield as their starting QB going forward, but the damage has been done, and are now in a tumultuous state at the position. Mayfield is due a fully guaranteed $18.5 million in 2022, and any team acquiring him would take on that cap hit, barring a reworked contract and/or the Browns agreeing to absorb some of the hit.

Meanwhile, Carolina finds itself still searching for a franchise quarterback after the Sam Darnold trade of a year ago did not live up to expectations. The club does own the No. 6 overall pick at the 2022 NFL Draft, which could be the most realistic avenue to possibly finding its signal-caller of the future.

As for Watson, the race appears to be down to only two horses, unless there’s a team hiding in the dark awaiting their moment to pounce, similar to what occurred on Wednesday in the Von Miller spree (Buffalo Bills being the secret candidate). But, as it stands, it’s the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints vying vehemently for its services, in an all-out battle royale between NFC South rivals. Both clubs have compelling pitches with Watson being an Atlanta native and the Saints having now reportedly met with him a second time, this one including team owner Gayle Benson, per NFL Network.

Benson and Co. have also restructured several deals this week to push their available cap space to nearly $30 million, needing around $35 million to absorb the 2022 cap hit of Watson’s contract, while the Falcons reportedly pushed back the $7.5 million bonus roster that was originally due to quarterback Matt Ryan on Friday to Tuesday. That gives the organization four extra days to hear Watson’s decision and be able to trade Ryan if necessary.

With it down to New Orleans and Atlanta, Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network reports that Watson is expected to take the next few days and contemplate his decision over the weekend.

Soon enough, this is all coming to a climactic end, and one of these teams will soon celebrate a new QB franchise. However, the final shoe to drop is a what type of punishment — if any — will be handed down by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell once the transaction part of this equation is complete.

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