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The Carolina Panthers have been busy making moves this month. Based upon the amount of cap space they are freeing up, it looks like the Panthers covet Deshaun Watson. Landing him from the Houston Texans after all but announcing that they think signing Teddy Bridgewater last year was a mistake would be a big move with financial implications. However, it’s chump change compared to a different kind of move that Panthers owner David Tepper appears to be plotting.

Teddy Bridgewater is likely out, so Deshaun Watson might be in

Signing Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year, $63 million contract before last season appeared like a solid move after the quarterback looked so impressive as the injury replacement for Drew Brees in New Orleans. Now, owner David Tepper’s Carolina Panthers are acting like they are prepared to move on from him after a 5-11 season, and the whispers are that they intend to make a run at Deshaun Watson.

Watson is fed up with the chaotic Houston Texans organization and wants a trade. With three-plus outstanding seasons under his belt, including 104 touchdown passes in 54 games, he has established himself as an elite quarterback. However, elite quarterbacks command big money.

Watson is a bargain in 2021 at $15.4 million, but his four-year, $156 million extension kicks in after that. That requires a big long-term commitment on the part of the Panthers, but recent moves have cleared some cap space for this year. Cutting defensive tackle Kawann Short and defensive end Stephen Weatherly has freed more than $14.5 million. A series of lesser moves, including restructuring their deal with center Matt Paradis, added close to $10 million more in room to maneuver.

Now, the Panthers just have to outbid the competition to become the Texans’ trading partner.

Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper is a serious businessman

When Carolina Panthers founder and owner Jerry Richardson was forced to sell the NFL team in 2018, David Tepper jumped in and received immediate approval from the league based upon two factors: As a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers at the time, he had already been vetted by the league. In addition, he didn’t hesitate to bid $2.2 million for the Panthers, setting a league record.

Tepper owes his wealth to his exceptional results as a hedge fund manager. Recruited by Goldman Sachs in the mid-1980s as a credit analyst not long after earning his MBA from Carnegie Mellon University, he left the firm after being passed over for a partnership.

Tepper formed Appaloosa Management in 1993 and showed a masterful touch while taking on risky investments, and the Great Recession in 2009 resulted in massive gains as financial institution stocks he bought at the bottom of the market began to rebound.

Forbes, labeling Tepper as “arguably the greatest hedge fund manager of his generation,” estimated his net worth in February 2021 at $13 billion. So picking up the next $171 million or so of Deshaun Watson’s deal isn’t going to break him. However, Tepper appears to have other matters on his mind.

David Tepper looks like a man on the move, literally

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper has made a move on purchasing a $73 million mansion in Palm Beach, Florida. The thought of Tepper leaving New Jersey worries government officials there a lot more than the Panthers’ possible acquisition of Deshaun Watson concerns rival NFL team owners.

That’s because Tepper generates enormous income through his Appaloosa Management business and other ventures. His leaving for a tax-haven state like Florida would blow a big enough hole in New Jersey’s state budget to worry politicians there. In fact, it’s happened before. In 2015, he moved his family and the hedge fund to Florida as a workaround to a potentially expensive federal tax law change.

Bloomberg News reported last year that Tepper had moved from his Miami residence of the past five years back to New Jersey, citing family reasons, according to friends. By doing so, he put himself on the hook for $120 million in New Jersey state taxes.

Yeah, that’s $120 million a year. The news agency reported that the implications of Tepper’s return were so significant that members of the state senate raised it in a floor budget debate.

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