Author: Nick Bruesewitz
MADISON- On Friday morning, the sports world woke up to the news of defensive end J.J. Watt’s release from the Houston Texans. The organization and him decided to mutually part ways after Watt has spent the entirety of his magnificent ten season career with the team. During his run in Houston, Watt was a five-time all-pro player and a three-time DPOY (Defensive Player of the Year) as well as accumulating 101 sacks. The Texans as a team seem to be going in a direction that J.J. wanted no part of. Star quarterback Deshaun Watson has been the focus of the largest story in the NFL’s offseason as he has requested a trade. Watson has been very vocal about his displeasure with the organization and it seems that Watt felt similar to him. Now that J.J. is a free agent, it sets up for some really intriguing landing spots for him. Here is how I rank them based on what I feel is most likely:
1. Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers are my favorite landing spot for the oldest Watt brother. Both of his younger brothers Derek Watt and T.J. Watt are already on the team. T.J. is coming off yet another DPOY caliber season (finished second in voting for the second consecutive season) and the Steelers defense is one of the best in the NFL. Adding another veteran to the locker room would do wonders for the young defensive players like Devin Bush and Alex Highsmith. Where it becomes tricky, is the idea of where they’d be able to slot J.J. in on the defensive line, since they already have Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt at both defensive end positions. All things considered though, I think Keith Butler, the Steelers Defensive Coordinator, could figure it out and having all of the brothers on the same team seems like an awesome opportunity.
2. Green Bay Packers: Being from Wisconsin and growing up in Waukesha, Wis., J.J. was a fan of the Packers as a kid. He currently has a home in Pewaukee, Wis. and loves the state of Wisconsin. After initially playing football at Central Michigan, he transferred to play for the Badgers at UW-Madison. His time with the Badgers led to him eventually being selected 11th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. The Packers have made it to the NFC Conference Championship game two consecutive seasons, but have failed to make it to the Super Bowl since Watt was still a Badger in 2011. With a 26-6 overall record the last two regular seasons, the team seems to be looking to get over that final hurdle and make it to SoFi Stadium this next February to try and win their fifth Lombardi Trophy. Aaron Rodgers seems to have the offense clicking, and the defense is the main reason they have wilted in January the last multiple seasons. Adding Watt with other defensive stars like Jaire Alexander and Za’Darius Smith could get the Packers to the Super Bowl.
3. Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks are my gut reaction team. I see the relationship between former Badger and current Seahawk QB Russell Wilson as a potential selling point. Although they never played together in Madison, that connection could be one that proves to entice Watt to Seattle. Both men have won the Walter Payton Man of the Year award and genuinely care about their communities. In recent years, Seattle has brought in veteran guys and allowed them to be part of a successful defensive unit. In this past season, Pete Carroll’s defense allowed Carlos Dunlap and Quandre Diggs to return to prominent roles with a defense. It’ll be interesting to see if the Seahawks show interest in him.
4. Miami Dolphins: Looking at the Dolphins and their 10-6 record from last season, you’d assume that they were a playoff team, but they weren’t. The team has completely turned itself around under head coach Brian Flores and their defense is their pride. Their linebackers and secondary include stars like Kyle Van Noy and Xavien Howard but if the team has a weakness, it’s their defensive line. They were only able to get 14.5 sacks from their defensive line this past season, a number that J.J. has surpassed himself four times as recently as 2018 when he had 16 sacks. Miami is also a potential landing spot for Deshaun Watson to get traded to as he has said they are his preferred destination. This certainly makes the Dolphins an intriguing option for Watt.
In the end, J.J. Watt gave everything he could to the Texans organization and the Houston community. Unfortunately, he was never able to get to a Super Bowl and injuries ended some really promising seasons for him. Now it is his time to find a new team to call home and I fully expect he will join an organization that is poised for a deep playoff run.