The race to trade for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is down to the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints after the Carolina Panthers were informed Thursday they were out of the running, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The Cleveland Browns were told earlier Thursday that they also were out, a source said.
The Falcons and Matt Ryan agreed to push back the $7.5 million roster bonus due to the quarterback from Friday to Tuesday, giving Ryan four extra days to vet his trade options, sources told Schefter.
The Saints also made multiple moves earlier Thursday to absorb Watson's $35 million salary in a potential trade, a source told ESPN's Field Yates. They restructured the contracts of quarterback Taysom Hill, defensive backs Bradley Roby and Malcolm Jenkins and linebacker Demario Davis to leave the team with $29.9 million in cap space.
Watson's representation informed the Panthers they were out of the running after Carolina refused to guarantee the final two years of Watson's contract, at $64 million, a league source told ESPN's David Newton. Had the Panthers agreed, that would have made all four years of Watson's contract, at $136 million, guaranteed.
Watson did not play last season following an offseason request to be traded and the emergence of 22 lawsuits against him alleging sexual assault and inappropriate conduct during massage sessions.
A Texas grand jury declined to indict Watson on criminal charges last Friday, signaling the end of criminal proceedings related to him in Harris County and kick-starting trade talks between the Texans and interested teams.
The lawsuits, which are separate from the criminal case, are still pending. Watson answered questions on two of the lawsuits during ongoing depositions Tuesday.