Texans rumors: J.J. Watt trade a ‘virtual certainty’ next offseason?

By Matt Johnson
Oct 18, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) walks off the field after their overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans planned to be sellers at the NFL trade deadline, but ultimately kept J.J. Watt and numerous other marquee players. While Watt will remain in Houston, his days in Houston are reportedly numbered.

After firing general manager and head coach Bill O’Brien, the Texans realize their roster needs a serious overhaul. Without a first- or second-round pick in a loaded 2021 NFL Draft, big changes are coming next offseason.

Related: 2021 NFL Mock Draft – Big trades, 5 QBs in all-offense top 10

Texans rumors: J.J. Watt will be traded next offseason?

According to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, NFL executives believed it is a certainty that the Texans will trade Watt during the upcoming offseason. One general manager went as far as to guarantee Watt will be on a new team by March.

Watt is beloved by the organization and city, with his image seen throughout Houston. However, O’Brien left the Texans in a horrendous situation. Already without top picks this year and projected to be $15 million over the 2021 NFL salary cap, significant moves must be made.

There will certainly be interest in Watt, but his contract makes things more complicated. The NFL is projected to lose billions of dollars in revenue this year, which could drop the salary cap from $198 million to $175 million next year.

Watt is owed $17.5 million in 2021, a salary that isn’t as easy to justify for a 31-year-old defensive end who is no longer playing at an elite level. Entering Week 9, Watt grades as Pro Football Focus’ 22nd best edge rusher. On the season, he has 22 pressures, 15 quarterback hurries and three sacks in 430 snaps.

Rumors indicated Watt was partially responsible for O’Brien being fired. Even with the toxic culture in Houston improving after O’Brien’s departure, Watt still wants a trade.

J.J. Watt trade landing spots

When the Texans rumors started circulating about a trade, many immediately mentioned the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers for potential landing spots. However, there are multiple options for a J.J. Watt trade.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers already have the NFL’s best defense, led by Watt’s brother T.J. J.J. would take his pass rush to another level and all three Watt brothers (J.J, T.J. and Derek) could play for the same NFL team. But, Pittsburgh is projected to be $26 million over the salary cap in 2021 with Juju Smith-Schuster, edge rusher Bud Dupree and running back James Conner hitting the open market.
  • Green Bay Packers: If Watt couldn’t play with his brother, the chance to return home and to suit up for his childhood team would be appealing. Unfortunately for the fan base, the Packers need to prioritize re-signing All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, star running back Aaron Jones and center Corey Linsley. If the Packers acquired Watt, they might have to bid farewell to Bakhtiari and Linsley.
  • Baltimore Ravens: We know Baltimore’s front office isn’t afraid to make big moves. Watt could play his brothers twice a year and would be another huge piece for a dominant defense. Plus, the Ravens are projected to have nearly $30 million in cap room next offseason.
  • New England Patriots: Bill Belichick will have more than $50 million in cap room and a plethora of 2021 draft picks for the upcoming offseason. He loves having a dominant defense and Watt is exactly the kind of player the Patriots wouldn’t hesitate to trade for.

Houston reportedly sought a first-round pick in exchange for Watt this season, a price no team was willing to pay. Once a new general manager is hired, we’d expect the price is lowered to a second-round pick. At that point, a trade likely happens.