5 best new teams for Houston Texans superstar J.J. Watt to join in 2021

J.J. Watt is likely to leave the Houston Texans this offseason, so let's take a look at the new teams he'd best fit with in 2021.

5 best new teams for Houston Texans superstar J.J. Watt to join in 2021
Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

JJ Watt was released by the Houston Texans, a stunning move that sees the end of an iconic era end abruptly. While Watt was mentioned in trade rumors entering the offseason, few expected that the Texans would move on from the face of their franchise and a person who was so beloved in the community.

It’s no secret that the Texans organization is in turmoil and is in jeopardy of losing quarterback Deshaun Watson. Hard to blame Watt for not wanting any part of that. He asked for his release and it was granted, allowing him to sign with any NFL team immediately.

With a $17.5 million cap hit due to him in 2021, the rebuilding Texans are likely going to undergo even more changes this offseason. Taking into account NFL salary cap implications, here are the best destinations for Watt in 2021.

Read More: NFL rumors: Houston Texans star J.J. Watt likely to play elsewhere in 2021

Updated: Feb. 12, 10:35 AM EST

JJ. Watt to Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sep 9, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) talks with Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) after the game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Texans 27-20 Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Beyond how glamorous this would generally be for Watt to join forces with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, the football fit makes a lot of sense, too. Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is known for his exotic schemes, and needs savvy veterans like Watt to execute at the highest level.

Even with the restrictions of the COVID-19 protocols, Brady has led the Bucs to Super Bowl LV in his first year with a new team. Given that the offseason program should at least be a little more normal in 2021, there will be more time for Tampa Bay to build chemistry. The NFC South features two teams in a rebuild between Atlanta and Carolina, while New Orleans is beset by salary cap woes.

All the elements are in place for Watt to take his talents to Tampa. Key defenders like Ndamukong Suh and edge-rusher Shaquil Barrett are going to be free agents, not to mention star linebacker Lavonte David. Bucs general manager Jason Licht can only pay so many players, so he might opt for someone like Watt to give a short-term boost to the front seven.

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J.J. Watt to Los Angeles Chargers

Dec 17, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (97) against Las Vegas Raiders offensive tackle Kolton Miller (74) at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Melvin Ingram is a free agent, so Watt is a logical candidate to step in for him and thrive with Joey Bosa on the other side of new head coach Brandon Staley’s defense.

The Bolts are appealing to Watt beyond just teaming with a beast like Bosa, though. Staley was a first-time coordinator at the NFL level with the Los Angeles Rams in 2020, and led them to No. 1 rankings in total yards and points allowed.

Staley knows how to get the most out of his players, and other than Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald, few casual fans could name many other players on the Rams defense. With Watt and Bosa up front, Kenneth Murray at linebacker and All-Pro safety Derwin James returning from injury, the Chargers would be stacked on D to complement their young star signal-caller Justin Herbert.

Read More: Los Angeles Chargers: How team can build around Justin Herbert this offseason, contend in 2021

J.J. Watt to Miami Dolphins

Jan 27, 2021; Mobile, AL, USA; National head coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins works with his players during National practice at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

About half a season of losing and arguably tanking preceded Dolphins head coach Brian Flores fundamentally changing the attitude and paradigm in Miami. Suddenly, it became a hot free-agent destination, and with multiple high draft picks in 2021, this team looks like a real contender if Tua Tagovailoa proves to be the man under center.

Watt would be attracted to Miami for all these reasons. One key element the Dolphins lack is a dominant edge presence, which Watt would obviously provide in spades. The more pressure Miami can get with a four-man rush, the more creative Flores can get with his game plans, aided by an excellent secondary.

The Fins yielded 4.5 yards per carry in 2020, which is where Watt’s value might be even more apparent. If Miami can improve its ability to run the ball and stop the run, this coming season may see the Dolphins dethrone Buffalo for the AFC East crown.

Read More: Miami Dolphins draft picks: Top 2021 selections, ideal prospects to target

J.J. Watt to Baltimore Ravens

Jan 16, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Baltimore Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell (93) and staff kneel before an AFC Divisional Round playoff game against the Buffalo Bills at Bills Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Quite the antithesis of whatever’s going on in Houston at the minute, the Ravens have been among the most consistent teams in the NFL over the past few years. They have a dynamic quarterback in Lamar Jackson, a well-coached defense under coordinator Wink Martindale and a strong organizational culture.

Baltimore has a lot of front seven players who are no longer under contract, including the likes of Pernell McPhee, Yannick Ngakoue, Derek Wolfe and Matt Judon. There’s little chance the team can retain all of them, or even half of those players.

Martindale would have a field day figuring out how best to utilize Watt, and in this scenario, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year would form a devastating combo up front with the likes of Calais Campbell.

Read More: Baltimore Ravens John Harbaugh: ‘Totally certain’ of Lamar Jackson contract

J.J. Watt to Cleveland Browns

Jan 3, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) runs onto the field before the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Although contract extensions loom for players like Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward and Nick Chubb, the Browns should have enough cap space to work it out if they’d want to bring Watt aboard to pair with superstar pass-rusher Myles Garrett for the next couple seasons.

The viability of landing Watt is tied in large part to what Cleveland decides to do with receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who had an injury-plagued, disappointing 2019 season before going down this past year with a torn ACL. Mayfield and the offense rolled to the playoffs without OBJ, which means he’s more of a luxury than a necessity at this point.

Watt addresses a bigger need on the Browns roster, and the team was already in danger of losing Olivier Vernon in free agency before he suffered a torn Achilles in Week 17. Not only is Watt a considerable upgrade from a healthy Vernon, but he’s versatile and strong enough to play inside on any given down, which gives Cleveland flexibility up front it’s lacked for many years.

Read More: Could a Baker Mayfield contract extension be coming with the Cleveland Browns?

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