Three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and longtime Houston Texans superstar J.J. Watt is enjoying his first foray into free agency with plenty of suitors interested in his services.
The latest buzz about Watt’s value on the open market is that he’s getting offered plenty of money to play for a new team, but it’s still unclear where he might be going.
J.J. Watt receiving free-agent offers between $15 million and $16 million
ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported the news of Watt’s free-agent worth based on the contract offers he’s already gotten from multiple clubs:
The NFL salary cap is lower in 2021 than is typical, which hurts the bottom line of what Watt and other marquee free agents can earn, yet also opens up the possibility of a backloaded contract.
Given that Watt may want to sign a short-term deal of one or two years before reevaluating the market thereafter, it makes it all the more complicated to discern where he might be going.
If we’re operating on the assumption that recent NFL rumors about Watt’s suitors are accurate, though, the reported dollar amount of his contract could help narrow down who the 31-year-old could ultimately wind up playing for next season.
The Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns and Las Vegas Raiders are being bandied about as Watt’s most likely landing spots.
Which teams make the most sense for J.J. Watt based on contract offers?
Given that the Packers have gone to two straight NFC title games and play in Watt’s home state of Wisconsin, that makes a lot of sense. However, after playing around with scenarios on Over the Cap, it’d take some serious salary cap gymnastics for Green Bay to sign Watt at his reported amount and retain elite center Corey Linsley to help protect stud quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Maybe Watt would be willing to take less or work out a contract where he’d help the Packers be more flexible in building their roster for another hopeful deep playoff run. As things stand right now, though, Green Bay seems like a longer shot.
Few teams need a pass-rusher as desperately as the Raiders do, but they have multiple holes on defense and are in a stacked AFC West division that faces Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert twice on the schedule each year. That doesn’t seem to mesh well with Watt’s desire to win a Super Bowl.
The Titans make some sense, but would Watt stir the pot and join an AFC South rival? He seems very loyal to Houston, so the optics of that could be a little tricky.
That leaves Cleveland and Buffalo among the reported contenders for Watt’s services.
Since the Bills have enough salary cap flexibility to restructure contracts and don’t have a ton of priority free agents, they could make way for Watt to join the fold. He’d bolster Buffalo’s defensive line and potentially be the missing piece on defense that lands the Bills in next year’s Super Bowl.
But Cleveland isn’t without its charms. Joining an up-and-coming Browns team could appeal to Watt, and as the cap situations stand for all the teams involved in the Watt sweepstakes, Cleveland could make him the most expensive offer. Watt would also get to line up opposite Myles Garrett to form one of the NFL’s premier edge-rushing tandems.
Wherever Watt decides to go, he can’t really go wrong. His annual salary will rank in the top 20 among edge defenders, per Spotrac, which is a little low, yet Watt can always renegotiate. More likely, he’s more concerned about a championship at this point in his legendary career.
Again, the cap will rise in 2022, which will allow Watt to dictate his contract terms if he performs as well as expected during the 2021 campaign.