Cleveland Browns reportedly ‘in the mix’ to sign J.J. Watt

Dec 2, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) during the game against the Cleveland Browns at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns won a playoff game this past season for the first time since 1994. If the team wants to take the next step, becoming a 2022 Super Bowl contender, J.J. Watt could hold the key next season.

Watt requested his release from the Houston Texans in early February, a wish the team granted. He immediately became one of the top NFL free agents available, but the future Hall of Famer is free to sign whenever he wants. Since becoming available, a flurry of teams reached out with the hope of convincing Watt to play for them.

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As Watt enjoys free agency, it seems the Browns could be among a few clubs with a legitimate shot at landing him.

Cleveland Browns rumors: Team in the mix for J.J. Watt

According to Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, the Browns remain in the mix to sign Watt this offseason. While they face plenty of competition, Cleveland is checking off a lot of the boxes Watt is looking for in a suitor.

The 31-year-old defensive lineman is focused on competing for a Super Bowl, one of the few honors he doesn’t have on his incredible resume. Watt is reportedly a fan of Baker Mayfield, believing he is the caliber of quarterback who can help Watt hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Not only that, but there is real appeal to pairing up on the defensive line with Myles Garrett.

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There is one area where the Browns fall short. They lack personal ties to the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. The Green Bay Packers offer the same championship opportunities and would allow Watt to play for his hometown team. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers provide a unique chance to be teammates with his brothers Derek and T.J. Watt. In terms of familiarity, the Baltimore Ravens (Anthony Weaver) and Tennessee Titans (Mike Vrabel) each have a coach with who Watt is very familiar.

With that said, Cleveland can offer something that Green Bay and Pittsburgh are unable to provide. The Browns are more than $20 million under the 2021 NFL salary cap, the kind of financial flexibility that allows them to pay Watt and surround him with even more help on the defensive side.

NFL rumors: J.J. Watt ‘seriously considering’ joining the Cleveland Browns

Given all of that, it’s not surprising J.J. Watt is smitten with the Cleveland Browns. Playing in Ohio would also allow him to be within driving distance of his wife. Kealia Watt is a professional soccer player for the Chicago Red Stars, just five hours away from Cleveland.

With so much uncertainty around the specific cap ceiling this year, many NFL teams might have to wait before signing Watt. That won’t be an issue for the Browns, making a deal with Watt even more likely.