J.J. Watt deserves a huge raise

By Jesse Reed

After watching the events of the 2016 NFL offseason unfold, one thing is crystal clear: J.J. Watt deserves a massive raise.

Universally accepted as the top defensive player, and as one of the NFL’s top players at any position, Watt is significantly underpaid as the market is currently constituted.

The Houston Texans signed Watt to a six-year deal worth just over $100 million back before the 2014 season began. The deal included just $10 million as a signing bonus and over $51 million guaranteed. That seems like a truckload of money to most of us, but when you look at the amount of money that has been thrown at front-seven defensive players this offseason it pales in comparison.

As you can see, both in terms of average salary and how much money was guaranteed, Watt isn’t getting a fair deal compared to his peers.

Even if all things were equal, he’s underpaid.

But we all know things are not equal. Here is proof.

Now, it’s worth pointing out that not all these guys are playing the same position.

Von Miller and Justin Houston are pure edge rushers, and as such they are expected to get to the passer on a regular basis. They are living up to those expectations, hence their big-money deals.

Ndamukong Suh is a pure 4-3 defensive tackle, so what he’s done in that role throughout his career cannot be discounted as trivial.

Fletcher Cox is just now starting to come into his own, as is Olivier Vernon. Both are being paid more in line with what is expected in their future, rather than what they’ve done to date. Vernon is a 4-3 defensive end, however, who needs double-digit sacks every year to come close to earning what the New York Giants paid him this winter.

Cox, along with Muhammad Wilkerson, play the exact same position as Watt. Yet neither of them can compare to him in terms of how they impact every game.

Quite simply, nobody can. Even when teams put two and three guys on him, Watt is unblockable at times. Even when he is being held in check he still impacts the game in a huge way because then other guys on the defensive line are being given one-on-one opportunities, if not open lanes to the quarterback.

Even if you correctly argue that sacks, forced fumbles and batted passes aren’t the only ways to impact games, Watt’s every-down dominance pokes holes in the argument that he’s not underpaid.

Miller threatened to hold out the entire 2016 NFL season if he didn’t get the deal he ended up landing. The Broncos took him at his word on that threat and made him the richest non-quarterback in league history.

But as good as Miller is, he doesn’t hold a candle to Watt.

We’re not suggesting that Houston’s dominant defender holds out for a better deal. That wouldn’t fit his character, anyway. However, it’s clear Watt deserves more than what he is getting — a fact the Texans would be smart to remedy in the next year or so.