As if this offseason couldn't be any crazier, yet another superstar is on the move. JJ Watt, the 3x DPOY, mutually agreed with the Houston Texans to part ways. For the 31-year-old, priority number one should be to win a Super Bowl. It's the last thing left for the 5x All-Pro to accomplish in his prolific NFL career, putting himself in the same conversations as Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White for the best defensive ends of all time. A ring on his finger would be the cherry on top of a Hall of Fame resume. So, the question must be asked: which team is best fitted to offer JJ that cherry on top?
Before I get into my landing spots, I want to rule out one team: Pittsburgh. Yes, I understand how cool of a storyline it would be for JJ to play with his two brothers, but it's just not feasible for either side. As of right now, the Steelers have the 26th most cap space and have other glaring roster issues to solve. Without a quarterback that's well equipped to take them far in the postseason, it won't matter how great their defense would be with JJ Watt.
The Steelers are in an eerily similar situation as the 2019 Bears. They're a team without a franchise quarterback whose defense is too good to ever give the Steelers a top ten pick; a real chance at a franchise quarterback. The dumbest thing Pittsburgh could do right now would be to sign a 31-year-old defensive player on a large deal. With that being said, I've exhausted all of my Steeler hate with this rant. Now, let's get into the teams who actually have a chance to sign JJ Watt.
1. Green Bay Packers
This one is a no brainer. Green Bay has been to the NFC Championship two years in a row and is looking for that one extra superstar to put them over the hump. The offense is more than capable of competing with the best teams in the league. For Green Bay, the missing pieces to their Super Bowl puzzle are on defense. Their secondary (minus Kevin King, for obvious reasons) is one of the best in the NFL. With JJ Watt, their front seven is downright scary.
As currently constructed, most of the Packers' defensive line is filled: Zadarius and Preston Smith would stay at their OLB positions, even if they were to sign JJ Watt. Although, the interior could use some help, and what's perfect about that is that JJ Watt has actually posted better grades on the inside. He may not be the premier pass rusher he once was on the outside, but he can still replicate that same prowess on the inside. Green Bay would be crazy not to offer the former Wisconsin Badger a local reunion and a real shot at the Lombardi trophy.
2. Cleveland Browns
There aren't many offenses in the NFL that mirror the talent of the Cleveland Browns. They have what is undoubtedly the best offensive line in football after finishing #1 in pass block grade and run grade for the 2020 season, according to PFF. Kevin Stefanski has revived Baker Mayfield's career and their two-headed monster in the backfield creates too many problems for modern defenses to solve. The only thing missing for the Browns is a defensive star.
Similar to Green Bay, the Browns would be major beneficiaries of a player like JJ who can line up inside or outside. Paired with Myles Garrett, there wouldn't be a better defensive line tandem anywhere else in the league. They'll have two young members of their secondary, Grant Delpit and Greedy Williams, returning after having sat out the entire 2020 season. There are only a few more holes to cover up that would really make the Browns' defense a force. One of those areas is their linebacker core, which this 2021 draft class has a plethora of. From Nick Bolton, to Jerimiah Owusu-Koramoah, to Zaven Collins and Jabrill Cox, this class is loaded with talented players in the Browns' draft range. If the Browns are smart, and they do end up signing JJ Watt, they could be looking at another postseason run, and maybe, just maybe, they can overcome Kansas City in 2021.
3. Buffalo Bills
This might be my favorite landing spot thus far; the Bills have had one of the smartest front offices in the league recently, building their roster in a frugal fashion while also understanding the two most important factors that too many teams fail to understand.
That is: pass coverage is more important than a dominating rush, and receivers who create separation are king. The Bills understand both of these things, and now that they fell short of the Super Bowl, they have to learn what made that possible. In the Kansas City playoff game, their pass rush was lacking heavily as KC never had to use more than five blockers on any given play. Now, if JJ Watt was playing in that game, I think the outcome might have changed. JJ knows that if he comes to Buffalo, he'll be playing for a title.
4. Tennessee Titans
Out of this group of five landing spots, Tennessee would benefit the most from signing JJ Watt. Their defense was atrocious last season, as they relied heavily on their offense to win shootouts. If the Titans want to be considered real contenders, their defensive front needs an upgrade badly.
You might be thinking that the last thing JJ Watt would ever want is to be on a franchise where he's double-teamed constantly like he's been for all of his career; at 31, that must be tiring. However, the defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons showed some elite potential flashes in 2020 and is primed for a breakout campaign in 2021. He has a similar career arc to Vita Vea, who exploded onto the scene this year despite his injury. I expect similar levels of play, if not even better, while paired with JJ Watt.
5. Arizona Cardinals
This is a love/hate landing spot for me. The Cardinals have a great foundation of talented players, but their coaching hasn't been able to maximize their potential. If JJ Watt went to Arizona, he would have to wait a couple of years for the staff to figure out their team's identity. Kliff Kingsbury's offense has gone stale, and they haven't seemed to figure out what role Isaiah Simmons will play for their defense. JJ could end up in Arizona, but I don't think it's the smartest move for him, personally. They're another year or two away from contending with their own division, let alone the entire NFC.