While the NFL offseason continues to progress, the recent release of Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt has left fans wondering where his next home will be. While the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers headline some of the favorites to land the five-time All-Pro talent, who else is in the mix?
Here, we discuss three sleepers for Watt during free agency:
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
While the Buccaneers have roughly $14.8 million to work with in cap space, the likelihood of landing Watt will depend on his price tag. Watt, 31, is reportedly seeking a two-year deal “at his going rate”. The Baltimore Ravens signed defensive end Calais Campbell to a two-year last offseason that paid him $12.5 million per season. Could we see a similar outcome here?
Among Tampa Bay’s free agents this offseason are defensive linemen in Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Ndamukong Suh, Steve McLendon, and Jeremiah Ledbetter. They also have another looming free agent in linebacker Shaquil Barrett. Still, there is a route in which the Buccaneers could bring back Suh (at a discount) and Barrett while also signing Watt.
The Buccaneers are fresh off their Super Bowl run over the Kansas City Chiefs and have a lot to address this offseason when it comes to their roster. With Watt, their defensive front could be among the best. If the goal is to win a Super Bowl before the end of his career, then Tampa Bay should be a serious consideration.
2. Buffalo Bills
The Bills weren’t an early popular choice to land Watt, but according to the latest reports, there is mutual interest between the two sides. Off an AFC Championship run last season, this could be an interesting fit. This is a team that will have other contract matters to discuss in the near future, as quarterback Josh Allen is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
The criteria for suitors of Watt should be centered around the team’s potential to make a Super Bowl run and have a capable quarterback to take pressure off the defense. Don’t the Bills fit the script?
Under Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott, Buffalo has created an efficient “team-first” culture that is very attractive to current and future free agents. Last season, the team finished with 38 sacks; 15th in the NFL. With clear room for improvement, there would need to be a handful of transactions made before Watt is considered a viable option. The Bills are roughly $323,000 over in cap space this offseason, leaving them in a difficult position to outbid other contending suitors.
1. Cleveland Browns
While the Steelers and Packers are favored for different reasons, the Cleveland Browns have quietly become a favorite to sign the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Much like the Bills, management has created a team-first culture. Where the two suitors differ is the fact that Cleveland has $21.7 million in cap space currently.
While the Browns aren’t among the current Super Bowl favorites, the addition of Watt puts them one step closer to that goal. The expectation is that they could offer Watt a more lucrative deal than any other suitor. Remember, this was a team that once offered Jadeveon Clowney a lucrative one-year deal and competitive multi-year deal. They will not be afraid to spend in this situation.
The Steelers ($30 million over the cap) and Packers ($19 million over) are in difficult positions to physically offer Watt a respectful offer. With that, one of the current sleepers such as the Browns could end up with favorable odds.