Following the release of JJ Watt, all fans of the 31 non-Houston Texans teams got the idea to add the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Of course, not all of these teams will have a chance to sign it. It would be naive to think that Watt didn’t already have a handful of possible goals in mind for his next squad. His agents are probably working hard – and probably already have been, wink wink – to land him in the most ideal spot.
The 32-year-old Watt had a difficult time when his fire was apparently still burning. In the end, he spoke quite loudly to the media a few times when asked about how Texans went during a 4-12 campaign.
At this stage in his career, it is clear that Watt will place a high value on landing with a competitor where he can win a Super Bowl title. He is one of the best active players without a ring.
He is no longer the same player as he used to be as Watt has suffered some serious injuries in recent years. But there are absolutely teams that feel he can still produce, so there should be a pretty robust pursuit of the Star Defensive Lineman.
Here are five teams that we think make a lot of sense:
JJ Watt will have plenty of applicants, but where will he end up? (Amber Matsumoto / Yahoo Sports)
On paper, the Steelers should be considered favorites here as they have an advantage that no other team can match. The signing in Pittsburgh would give Watt the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play with his two brothers TJ and Derek.
That has never happened in the NFL annals and would make for a great story about the reunion. You could see how much it meant to all three when they became the first trio of brothers to play in the same NFL game last season. So it is a factor that absolutely cannot be overlooked.
The Steelers’ defenses are among the best in the NFL, but adding Watts could help a unit that could lose Tyson Alualu’s surprise contribution to the free hand. The Steelers also have a decision to make outside of the rushers Bud Dupree. And while Dupree plays a different place from Watt, it’s easy to see how an addition can help offset a potentially large free hand loss.
The story goes on
The big question is money. Is that Watt’s biggest factor in choosing his team? In this case, the Steelers may need to get creative. They have less flexibility with the salary cap than other teams on this list and may have to mess up some people and some contracts a little.
But adding Watt and his leadership – especially as Ben Roethlisberger nears its dawn and the respected Maurkice Pouncey calls it a career – would bring serious late-career value to Pittsburgh.
Green Bay Packers
Watt comes from Wisconsin and was an avowed Packers fan as a child. He grew up two hours from Green Bay, just outside of Milwaukee.
The Packers have just made a second NFC title game in a row, and it is believed that Watt would like to join a competitor. Those two elements are two big selling points as Watt would re-enter a beloved character in Wisconsin after starring there in college.
Watt and Aaron Rodgers are also said to have a healthy relationship, with each going out of their way to praise the other in their years of competition. Even so, there was a hilarious moment in 2012 when Watt fired Rodgers and poked fun at his earlier “Discount Double Check” party.
This pairing is not hard to imagine and would help reinforce a Packers front that Kenny Clark had but few other standout performances last season. We suspect Green Bay has the ability to free enough space for the cap to make this possible.
This is our long look at the lot, but it wouldn’t be breathtaking to see the bears run in a critical season for head coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace at Watts.
It would be an opportunity for the bears to sell the franchise’s love affair with the Defense and perhaps send signals to other potential free agents that they are serious about fighting this season.
But for Watts to think about the bears, they probably need to pick up on the idea that he’s in the same town as his wife, Kealia Ohai Watt, who plays for the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).
It’s a stretch, and the question is whether the bears could afford Watts, but they’d have to attack him even if big questions arise with the quarterback and the status of a leading receiver, Allen Robinson, who should be a higher priority if he is interested in coming back.
New England Patriots
Bill Belichick just lost his first loss in nearly 20 years – and then watched his former quarterback win a Super Bowl in a different uniform.
It is officially the case that all systems are re-starting this transformation for Belichick and its employees, who are reportedly working flat out to find ways to improve their difficult 2020 campaign.
One shocking development in New England last season was the decline in defense, especially against the run and in short range situations. Watt would be a big upgrade in that department.
And it would be foolish to underestimate Belichick’s power of persuasion when it comes to bringing select veterans to Foxboro. Roman Phifer, Rosevelt Colvin, and Rodney Harrison initially failed because of the idea of joining the Spartan patriots, but were convinced when Belichick started talking to them.
Belichick has long been a huge fan of Watts, and yet the Patriots did a great job of keeping him at bay when they competed against each other. There has to be a part of Watts that the legend likes to train and try to win a ring in New England.
Oh, and the patriots are flush with cap space. They are not known as the team that often outbids opponents in the free hand, but Belichick will make exceptions (see Stephon Gilmore) for players he believes are real differentiators.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were on our minds here too, and it wouldn’t be breathtaking to see Super Bowl champ Bucs take a run at Watt and him if he had a year or two with Tom Brady and this talented roster as his best Chance looks at a ring.
The Baltimore Ravens are another team that makes sense. They love their seasoned contributors, have a need, and could sell watts if they get there to hunt for a title.
But we can’t overlook the cowboys as a strong possibility, as Jerry Jones always has longing eyes for famous stars. In addition, Dallas could use the aid absolutely defensively. They found themselves in sacks at the bottom of the league, giving up defensively massive treads in a brutal 2020 season.
Watts loves Texas too, and this could keep him in the state he has been home in for nearly a decade. Plus, Jones would never miss the opportunity to rub some salt in the wounds of the other Lone Star State team, which is in the early stages of a franchise reset.
Cowboys players have already started their sales pitch.
Can you pay watts now? It’s about Dak Prescott’s situation, and the place in Dallas isn’t exactly fluid. But that has rarely stopped this franchise in the past when unique opportunities arose.
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