Shocker, another player wants out of the train wreck that is the Houston Texans franchise. J.J. Watt posted earlier today on Twitter that he has been granted a release from the Houston Texans.
It wasn’t a matter of “if” so much as a matter of “when” J.J. Watt would finally call it quits in Houston. With his release from Houston virtually resetting his contract, Watt can fit with multiple teams. Hats off to the Texans by the way for not pulling a Bill O’Brien and trying to trade him for a used football and an expired coupon.
With Houston and Watt mutually parting ways, here are the most likely J.J. Watt free agency destinations.
Most Likely J.J. Watt Free Agency Destinations
Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers are truly the most obvious destination for J.J. Watt. I already talked about the possibility of Watt going to the Packers recently. It practically writes itself. Kid from Pewaukee, Wisconsin, who grew up idolizing Reggie White and looking at Packers players as having the best job in the world, coming back home to win a title.
Schematically, it makes sense too. The Packers’ biggest problem was generating any semblance of a pass rush in their 3-4 defensive scheme. That is exactly what Watt can get you. Add in the fact that Green Bay also has the best chance among all other possible fits to win a championship, and it seems like a home run. Also, it doesn’t hurt that his wife Kealia is a professional soccer player for the Chicago Red Stars.
The only question is if he’ll fit in with the Packers salary cap wise. The Packers are currently about $21 million over the salary cap. However, if the Packers cut players, like Preston Smith and Dean Lowry, and don’t bring back some others, it’s feasible they could sign him. Yes, he’d have to come back at a hometown discount, but he has made it very clear he wants to win. On top of that, the Packers can almost certainly still give him a decent contract. At the end of the day, the Packers give Watt the best chance to be a Wisconsin legend and an elusive championship ring. Players have certainly taken pay cuts for situations like this before.
J.J. Watt’s brothers certainly would love to have the whole family together on the same team. T.J. wasted no time tweeting out his thoughts after J.J. Watt’s announcement.
It seems like a perfect situation for J.J. He’d be a part of a defense notorious for being among the toughest and fiercest in the NFL alongside his brothers. What’s not to like? The Steelers do find themselves $14 million over the cap as of now, but that can easily be amended. Ben Roethlisberger has talked about restructuring his contract, which currently has a cap hit of $41 million. That alone would get them under, while other moves could certainly generate plenty to bring in Watt.
The only thing that stands in the way is winning, ironically. Who would’ve thought that Pittsburgh would ever be thought of as a non-contender? The Steelers didn’t just lose to the Browns in the playoffs. They got exposed and embarrassed. For as good as this defense would be even with J.J. Watt, their offense is in shambles. They have little running game behind an injury-prone running back, their receivers are more interested in internet clout, and Big Ben is years past his prime. It would be a fun fit for him, but the fact of the matter is, what’s stopping them from competing is their offense, not their defense.
The Buffalo Bills are the only team on this list that is actually below the salary cap. Granted, Buffalo currently only has just over $3 million to work with, but it’s still better than a lot of teams. They don’t have many pending free agents this year that they’ll need to resign, but they’ll still need to restructure some contracts or make some pretty significant cuts to make the move work. Unfortunately, most of Buffalo’s bigger contracts don’t expire for a few years, so simply cutting players and absorbing the dead cap may not be a smart move long term.
The Bills have the best chances of contending outside of Green Bay. Their problem, however, is much like that of the Steelers. Josh Allen put up some MVP numbers and Stefon Diggs looked every bit like an elite receiver. With that being said, if you stop Diggs, this offense grinds to a halt. The run game is inefficient at best and the other receivers, while solid, can’t pick up the slack.
Many things will change this offseason, so the AFC won’t be running it back against the same exact teams, but it’s hard to imagine the Bills reaching the Super Bowl without any changes to the offense.
Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t a perfect fit for Watt, but they’ll likely be the best available. The Packers are the best fit, but if history has proven anything, it’s that for whatever reason, the front office doesn’t go for Wisconsin products. Just look at the 2017 NFL Draft when Green Bay needed both linebackers and corners, but they took an injury-prone question mark in Kevin King over college star and Wisconsin product T.J. Watt. The Packers like trying to act intelligent and that they always have something up their sleeve. Newsflash, the only thing up their sleeve is constantly overthinking the most basic moves, so don’t be surprised if Green Bay doesn’t even talk to him.
The Buffalo Bills have a solid defensive line as it is, and it would be hard to justify getting an upgrade at defensive line when other holes could be filled. The defensive line for Buffalo is certainly not what’s holding them back from title contention anyways. In the end, the pull of playing with his brothers will be too strong, and J.J. Watt will move on to terrorize the AFC North.