Which Super Bowl contender will land J.J. Watt?
That is going to be the big question after Houston “mutually agreed to part ways” with the former first-round pick after 10 seasons. Watt, a three-time AP Defensive Player of the Year winner, has 101 sacks for his career. Watt leaves a Houston community where he left a major impact on and off the field.
So where will Watt land next? A playoff contender would make the most sense. Watt has played in eight postseason games, but he’s never been on a team that played for a conference championship. Several suitors might be able to offer that opportunity.
Sporting News looks at the free-agency fits, starting with the best place to chase a ring:
J.J. Watt’s best fits after Texans release
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If it’s about a ring chase, then why not go join Tom Brady in Tampa Bay? Lavonte Davis, Shaq Barrett and Ndamukong Suh are all free agents in 2021, and there’s no way Tampa Bay can keep all three. The Buccaneers do rank 10th in cap space, however, and Watt could come with a prove-it deal knowing he has nine sacks in the last two seasons. Barrett had eight sacks last season and dominated in the postseason. This is one of the more-logical fits.
Would Watt stay in the division and team up with Mike Vrabel? The Titans tried to bring in Jadeveon Clowney, but it did not work out. Watt could be a more consistent player. New defensive coordinator Shane Bowen was an assistant in Houston from 2016-17, and he could build an even better defense around Jeffery Simmons, Kevin Byard and Watt.
Matt Judon, who led Baltimore with six sacks last season, is a free agent. Derek Wolfe also is a free agent. The Ravens, however, could reconstruct a pass rush around Watt and Calais Campbell, who was a difference maker in his first season. Watt would have a successful veteran coaching staff around him, and Baltimore might have to make this move before someone else in the division does.
You know exactly who we are talking about.
The fan favorites
T.J. Watt is already calling for it.
Would a Watt family reunion — Derek Watt also plays for the Steelers — make sense? The Steelers had the league’s third-best defense in 2020 and might have been ranked higher if not for season-ending injuries to Bud Dupree and Devin Bush. Pittsburgh ranks 27th in cap room, but Dupree is a free agent now. Watt could fill that void, and maybe it would come with the family discount.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers needs help, and what better place to start than the former Wisconsin stud? The in-state native would give new defensive coordinator Joe Barry another piece in a unit that features Kenny Clark and lock-down cornerback Jaire Alexander. Green Bay’s cap situation is not ideal for this kind of signing, but it can be done with a little restructuring. Watt would be 32 – the same age as Reggie White when he came to Green Bay. We all know how that turned out for the Packers.
Keep an eye on …
The Buccaneers offered the blueprint for catching the Chiefs, and the Bills managed to sack Patrick Mahomes just one time in the AFC championship game. Buffalo is close, and Watt would beef up a pass rush and be an instant fan favorite. It’s worth a try if the Bills can clear cap space.
The Browns lose Olivier Vernon to free agency, but this franchise has been one of the more aggressive teams in the offseason the last two years. The thought of Myles Garrett and Watt coming at a quarterback on third down is terrifying, and the Browns are certainly in contention now.
Los Angeles Chargers
Could you imagine Watt and Joey Bosa on the same defensive line? First-year coach Brandon Staley earned his new job by coaching a dominant defensive line with the Rams, and the Chargers have enough talented pieces on that side of the ball. That would help in the chase to catch the Chiefs in the AFC West.
New England Patriots
Are the Patriots still a contender? New England does have the fourth-most cap room, and it would be an aggressive signing that makes sense for both sides. Watt would have success in Bill Belichick’s scheme, and it would give New England another pass-rushing option on the interior. Chase Winovich led the Pats with 5.5 sacks last season.