Steelers, Bills, Browns, Titans Among Teams Interested In J.J. Watt

Hours after the Texans released J.J. Watt, the free agency pursuit of the three-time Defensive Player of the Year is underway. Around a dozen teams are interested in the future Hall of Fame defensive end, Ed Werder of ESPN.com tweets.

Among the early pursuers are the Bills, Browns, Titans and Steelers, Werder notes. While Watt would be a fit in most places, each of these teams could use an additional pass rusher. Watt intends to sign with a contender but does not plan on making a final decision until next week.

The Texans received calls on Watt over the past two weeks but opted to grant his release request. Watt will turn 32 later this year. Under his Texans contract, Watt was set to make $17.5MM in 2021. The salary cap reduction and Watt’s injury history may prevent him from a monster free agency deal, but the number of teams in the mix here stands to drive up the veteran’s price — if, in fact, this pursuit will come down to finances.

The Steelers would likely be unable to match some of the top offers for Watt, but they certainly have an interesting selling point. Younger brothers T.J. and Derek Watt are under contract with Pittsburgh for 2021; T.J. is on track for a big-ticket extension in the near future. The Steelers are well over the projected cap, as of Friday, and may have to replace several veteran starters next season. One of those could be free agent Bud Dupree. Pittsburgh’s fit would also be interesting considering their talent at Watt’s position. The Steelers have Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt signed to long-term deals. While Watt has been dominant as an inside and outside pass rusher, the Steelers have two high-end starters at his position.

Coming off their first playoff berth in 18 years, the Browns are projected to be in the league’s top sector in terms of cap space. Olivier Vernon suffered an Achilles tear late in the season, and the defensive end is on track for free agency anyway. The Browns, who will be looking for an edge rusher opposite Myles Garrett, made a steady push for longtime Watt teammate Jadeveon Clowney last year.

The Bills have several veteran defensive ends under contract, but Watt is younger than Buffalo starters Mario Addison and Jerry Hughes. The team that did land Clowney, Tennessee struggled mightily on defense last season. The Titans’ Clowney and Vic Beasley signings produced zero combined sacks. Watt did play under Mike Vrabel for a time in Houston. Both the Titans and Bills reside in the middle of the pack in projected cap space.

While Watt did not make the Pro Bowl, he did play a 16-game season for the second time in three years. Despite major injuries in 2016, ’17 and ’19, Watt graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 7 overall edge defender in 2020, with the advanced metrics site praising the veteran’s work against the run and pass. His five sacks, however, were a career-low for a season in which he played 16 games. Watt made the most recent of his five All-Pro first teams in 2018, when he recorded 16 sacks and forced seven fumbles. More teams figure to emerge in this pursuit soon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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26 comments on “Steelers, Bills, Browns, Titans Among Teams Interested In J.J. Watt

    • paddyo875

      Or Nick Bosa? That Dee Ford has gone poorly, hopefully the Niners can get out of that contract.

      • ABStract

        I’m with you paddy!
        Just take him and Watson from Houston and put ‘em on SF and wow

  1. mjbuchanan80

    Bills would be a great fit. Team is on the rise and Watt just feels like a good match.

  2. 2012orioles

    Alualu is a free agent. Move Heyward to the inside, and watt can play outside. If watt wants to play for less money there would be a spot for him

  3. Simmons>Russ

    Honestly would love to see JJ take a real low salary like 5-10mil just to play with his brothers.
    But if not cause of the fit on the field I’d like him on the Seahawks, Packers, or something similar. A good team with a good QB

  4. arty!

    Jags send the first pick to Seattle For Wilson & sign JJ. Two veteran, great leaders on both side of the ball.

    • Michael Chaney

      That roster is nowhere near ready to contend. They have a few nice pieces, but they’re much further than two pieces away from competing — even if one of those is Russ.

      • arty!

        Any team w/ a HoF QB is ready to contend. Simple as that. The best QB’s, less Watson this season, had their teams in the playoffs.

        The HC is good for, max 5 years. Get a proven winner w/ that 1st pick.

        • cka2nd

          The Saints that went 7-9 for four out of five seasons with Drew Brees would indicate that you’re wrong. Ditto Philip Rivers’ two years making the playoffs in his last 10 seasons with the Chargers. Also John Elway and the Broncos making the playoffs only once between 1992 and 1995. And old fart that I am, Sonny Jurgensen’s entire career would also contradict the idea that any team with a HoF QB is ready to contend.

          • dan55

            Also remember Eli’s last 5 or so years in New York. Simply having a great QB does not guarantee a playoff spot. Jacksonville is at least 2 years away from being a good team. I think both Jacksonville and Seattle would say “no” to that trade, but I will give you credit for creativity.

            • The_Commentator

              Dude never said any team with a HOF QB will content but is ready to contend a big difference. Also, Eli Manning was better than average but not an elite NFL QB. During his career nobody would have said he was a top 5 QB.

          • myaccount

            cka2nd- All those teams were ready to contend; their front offices or head coaches simply were not good enough at getting help for their HoF QBs or putting their players in positions to succeed.

            • cka2nd

              No, I don’t think most of those Chargers teams or most of Jurgensen’s Redskins teams were ready to contend, HoF-quality QB or not.

    • Patrick N.

      Wilson is worth far more than even the first overall pick. Stafford got 2 firsts. Wilson is worth that and more.

  5. ABStract

    He’s like 6’6’ right?
    Can he play BBall?
    He could play center for the Warriors for a while…
    Haha

  6. MileHighFan

    If he wants to win a title he should go to the Bills or the Packers. Everybody else has issues that will keep them from really competing for a title.

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