DeAndre Hopkins, Deshaun Watson… J.J. Watt. Three of the most prominent athletes in Houston Texans franchise history, all but one—for now—gone. A once progressing franchise on the brink of NFL royalty, the Texans’ relegation to the pits of the league has raised questions on the hierarchy of the organization. And now, following a fractured relationship with team executives, Houston’s franchise sack leader, Houston’s most accomplished player, Houston’s leader in general is on the open market.
Watt, the former No. 11 selection in the 2011 draft, is a prime example of “practicing what you preach.”
He’s a leader—on and off the field—blue-collar, tough, everything you look for in an anchor of a defense and a franchise. Despite battling the injury bug the past few seasons, Watt’s assured the critics he’s got plenty of juice left. So, as we begin potentially one of the most active offseasons in league history, Watt now enters the market ravenous, thirsty for a chance at achieving something that has long avoided the three-time Defensive Player of the Year: a chance to compete for a Super Bowl.
Subsequently, let’s dive into three potential teams Watt could suit up for come Week 1 next fall.
Green Bay Packers
It’s easy to connect the dots here. Watt attended the University of Wisconsin and often calls the northern midwest home in the offseason. With a roster coming off of two consecutive NFC title game appearances, they’re ready to compete for a title. Not in five years, now.
Financially, it’s a sticky situation, as Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has to find avenues to clearing $20M to get under the cap, but the potential is there, even after restructuring David Bakhtiari’s $92M contract. Dean Lowry and Kingsley Keke currently represent the two bookends in Green Bay’s 3-4 scheme, which leaves much to be desired from a production standpoint. Watt could be the final puzzle piece on a budding defensive front seven headlined by Clark, and the Smiths; Za’Darius and Preston. Working adjacent to Clark, Watt would add additional juice to a Packers defense that finished the year tied for 10th in sacks per game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
According to BetOnline, Tampa could again serve as the location for a prized, grizzled vet to land.
Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, Mike Evans… J.J. Watt? Hard Knocks is already filming.
Hollywood cast aside, let’s focus on football. Brady isn’t going anywhere, and as long as he’s under center, Tampa will be in contention. Now, before you say “where will they get the money,” hear me out. Tampa’s cap situation, unlike Pittsburgh, who sits as Watt’s most likely destination according to the odds, isn’t crippling. Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht currently sits with more than $20M in cap space and hasn’t been shy in dishing out cash to acquire necessary talent.
Fresh off a drubbing of the high-flying Chiefs in a Super Bowl highlighted by the play of Tampa Bay’s front seven, Watt’s addition to Todd Bowles’ defense would be harrowing for the rest of the NFL. The Buccaneers ravaged a depleted Kansas City Chiefs offensive line, and with the addition of Watt, Tampa Bay could find themselves tossing the Lombardi Trophy again next year.
No, not the Steelers. I’ll get to that later.
Enter Tennessee, a flourishing franchise hinged upon stability within the front office.
Combine a long-running relationship between head coach Mike Vrabel and Watt stemming from Vrabel’s days in Houston with a progressing defense that needs spark up front, and Tennessee’s potential to land the five-time All-Pro can’t be denied. Plus, the revenge card can be played here—and if you don’t think Watt would want to feast on the Texans as Jack Easterby looks on, you’re wrong.
Outside of playing Houston, who tied for the second-most sacks allowed in the league, four of the Titans’ six division matchups come against the Jacksonville Jaguars (seventh-most sacks allowed) and the Indianapolis Colts, who tout an impressive front-five, but lost their starting quarterback and multiple pieces along Frank Reich’s offensive line.
Complementing Harold Landry is a must for Tennessee this offseason, and by adding Watt, Tennessee not only fills the void but adds a true centerpiece of the defense within a roster on the brink of a title run.
Many of you will ask “why not Pittsburgh…” to that, it’s all about money. It’s easy to see Watt wanting to join his brothers T.J. and Derek—I’m sure he does—but the amount of transactions and reconstruction of contracts the Steelers would have to negotiate to get under the cap does not seem financially feasible.
Watt, who may not be the same game-wrecker he once was, has again proven an exhaustive narrative in Houston of “another man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” As Houston seems comfortable wallowing in mediocrity swallowed by a tyrannical front office, it’s on to greener pastures for Watt, who now becomes one of the prized free agents of the 2021 offseason.
- Jun 24, 2022
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