In a surprising turn of events, the Houston Texans decided to release All-Pro DT JJ Watt. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Houston could have traded Watt for a draft pick yet decided to release him so their former face of the franchise could decide his own destiny. While some might see this as a 'classy move", it looks more like a desperate attempt to save face and convince their star QB that the franchise isn't as horrible as it really is.
Now, Watt is a free agent, and i'm sure every team will be making a call to see what it would take to get that beast on their defensive front. Watt has made quite a bit of money during his professional career, being one of only 19 players in NFL history to sign a contract worth $100 million. JJ seems like he would be chasing a Super Bowl ring at this point in his career and the money will not likely be a big factor in where he lands. I have three landing spots for the former Defensive Player of the Year where he can make an impact and try to make his first career Super Bowl appearance.
- San Francisco 49ers- After being in the 2020 Super Bowl, the 49ers had a tough season riddled with injuries. They also traded DeForest Buckner to the Colts, leaving a hole in the middle of their defensive line. SF has $20 million in cap space according to spotrac.com, leaving them some flexibility to make some moves this off-season. Watt could step in to a defensive line that has Arik Armstead and will also get DE Nick Bosa next season on the ends. JJ could play along side 1st Round Pick Javon Kinlaw, and with the amount of talent he would have a substantially better chance to hit the QB, as teams wouldn't be able to double team him the way they did when he was in Houston.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Tampa just concluded their victory parade and Watt has to be seeing how much fun the Bucs are having. If Brady and the gang decide to run it back, then they have to be one of the favorites right? In NBA fashion, Watt could head to the team that won the Super Bowl in hopes of helping them do it again. The Bucs are sitting at $30 million in cap space, according to spotrac.com. While they do have quite a bit of free agents to worry about, they could find a way to make a Watt deal work as they did for many other veterans last off-season. If Watt is willing to take an incentive based deal, Tampa Bay could be an attractive destination.
- Indianapolis Colts- Without a franchise QB, the Colts have plenty of money to spend on other positions. They have plenty of cap space, sitting at $78 million according to spotrac.com. With that kind of space, they could be the best option if Watt wanted to be on a playoff contender while still getting paid at an elite level. The star DT will be 32 years old next month, so this could be his last chance of getting a multimillion dollar deal. The Colts defense played quite well last season so Watt could slide in and make them an elite defensive unit. He would also get the opportunity to compete against his former team twice a year while also eating up on the lowly Jaguars twice a season.
All of these options would be significant upgrades for Watt, as far as quality of team and organization. It will be interesting to see where Watt ends up. While he could head to any team, it was very telling that they didn't trade him, as it shows he doesn't want to waste his time on a team that may be rebuilding such as the Jaguars or Jets. I strongly believe he will end up on one of the above teams, as they offer the opportunity to compete for a title while also getting compensated fairly for his production.
NFL Salary Cap. (2021). Spotrac. https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/cap/2021/