After a wildly successful 10 years, the Houston Texans have parted ways with superstar pass rusher J.J. Watt. Watt reportedly asked for the release, as this gives him the ability to sign with any team he desires prior to the start of free agency. He might not be the player he once was, but Watt’s still a fantastic pass rusher capable of moving all along the defensive front. Every single team in the league would love to have him, but some teams have better chances of landing the five-time All-Pro. J.J. Watt wants a team that can pay him and give him a chance to win a championship, and finding a team that fits those needs might not be easy.
Which Team Best Fits J.J. Watt?
Tier 1: Most Likely Landing Spots
The Baltimore Ravens have a knack for getting their hands on great veteran edge defenders. On paper, the Ravens have one of the best all-around rosters in the league. Lamar Jackson is a great young quarterback, Mark Andrews is one of the best tight ends in the league, and the defense has playmakers at all three levels. Baltimore should remain Super Bowl contenders for the next couple of years, which will definitely be appealing to Watt. Additionally, the team currently has $28.9 million in cap space, meaning that they should be able to pay Watt whatever he wants to come over and compete for a title.
General manager Chris Ballard has done a wonderful job since arriving in Indianapolis. Taking over for a horribly incompetent Ryan Grigson, Ballard turned the Colts from a directionless mess into one of the most complete rosters in the league. He did all despite hardly spending any money, as the Colts are annually among the league leaders in cap space. The same holds true in 2021, as Indianapolis is projected to have $78.5 million in available cap space, according to Spotrac. If the Colts can convince Watt that they have a plan at quarterback, then this could be the most attractive landing spot in the league.
Los Angeles Chargers
Despite the underwhelming 7-9 record, the Los Angeles Chargers have a lot going for them. Justin Herbert took the league by storm last year, and he should be even better in Year 2. Now armed with a better coaching staff and several key players returning to health, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see the Chargers in the thick of Super Bowl contention next year. Pairing Watt with Joey Bosa would give Los Angeles the best pass rushing duo in the league and would help take the annually-underachieving Chargers to the next level.
Tier 2: Possible J.J. Watt Team Fits
With J.J. Watt officially waived today, he can begin receiving calls from NFL teams. I'm told Watt wants to take the weekend before digging into potential options. Going to a contender will be important.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) February 12, 2021
The Buffalo Bills made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game in 2020, and that performance was no fluke. Even if Josh Allen takes a step back from last year, he’s still good enough to guide a loaded roster to a Super Bowl. The Bills have a fantastic head coach in Sean McDermott, a great supporting cast, and an easy path to a division crown. The only they don’t have is cap space, as Buffalo currently has just $3.8 million in available spending money. This is going to be the biggest obstacle in obtaining Watt, as other teams will have the ability to outbid Buffalo for his services. That said, Watt might be willing to take a little less if he truly believes Buffalo is his best chance for a title.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have the best J.J. Watt recruiting tool in the world: his brother. T.J. Watt is one of the best defensive ends in football, and one could argue that he deserved Defensive Player of the Year honors over Aaron Donald. Combining the two Watt brothers would make a fantastic defense all the more dangerous, but, once again, money is an issue. Pittsburgh is currently $14.2 million over the cap, meaning that they probably won’t have the financial flexibility to get a big-name player like Watt. Restructuring Ben Roethlisberger’s contract will help, but it might not be enough.
The Cleveland Browns have the talent, coaching staff, and financial standing to make a serious push at J.J. Watt. Baker Mayfield finally lived up to this promise during the back half of 2020, playing like a true franchise quarterback and almost upsetting the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Round. However, the Browns share a division with the Ravens and Steelers, which might make Watt want to join a team with an easier path to a division crown.
Tier 3: Longest of Long Shots
New England Patriots
Tom Brady succeeded without Bill Belichick, but that doesn’t mean that the eight-time Super Bowl champion is a fraud. Belichick is still a fantastic coach, and his storied history to get the most out of his players should appeal to Watt. Additionally, the Patriots have a staggering $68.8 million in cap space, meaning that they’ll be able to pay Watt whatever he wants and have money left over. The biggest question is whether Watt views the Patriots as legitimate contenders. It’s basically impossible to seriously compete in today’s NFL without a top-10 quarterback, and the Patriots don’t have a path to one of those. The rest of the roster isn’t exactly elite either, although Belichick could partially address that with a massive spending spending pree.
This one is about money, plain and simple. The Jacksonville Jaguars successfully embraced the tank and currently own the first-overall pick and $79.6 million in available cap space. The Jaguars will shortly have their quarterback of the future in Trevor Lawrence and will spend the next few months trying to surround him with as much talent as possible. If Lawrence hits the ground running, then there is a chance that this team could make a push for a Wild Card spot. However, that is anything from a given, and Jacksonville would need to dramatically outspend the market for any shot at landing Watt.
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