Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report put the Browns among four likely landing spots for former Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt, who could be on his way out in Houston with a new regime in place and his production waning.
The sentiment is growing that Watt has played his last snap in a Texans uniform, per James Palmer of the NFL Network.
“The belief with teammates and coaches I’ve spoken to is that Watt has played his last game as a Texan,” Palmer wrote on Twitter. “A few told me that was the mood in the locker room after their final game.”
The belief with teammates and coaches I’ve spoken to is that Watt has played his last game as a Texan. A few told me that was the mood in the locker room after their final game. https://t.co/vBsrflwyf4
— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) January 30, 2021
Palmer’s NFL Network peer Mike Garafolo built on that report, saying Watt wants to go deep into the playoffs before his storied career comes to an end.
“It doesn’t seem like the Texans, who have a new regime in, would reset the table and give him a long-term extension,” Garafolo said. “If that’s the case and you’re entering that last year, then perhaps it might be best to just let him go and get a fresh start elsewhere. He’s been through so much. He certainly wants to play for a winner. He’s been to the playoffs in his career, but he wants to go deep into the playoffs, deeper than he’s ever been.”
Myles Garrett, JJ Watt Would be a Monster Combination
Watt has been named Defensive Player of the Year three times and has made five Pro Bowls. He has 101 sacks in his career, which has been entirely with Houston after they took him with the No. 11 pick in 2011.
Watt has played just two full seasons since 2016, but has been fairly productive when he’s on the field. He had five sacks last season, four in eight games the year prior and 16 sacks in 2018 — the last time he made the Pro Bowl. Watt had double-digit sacks four seasons in a row from 2012-15, including a pair of 20.5-sack seasons.
Cleveland would be an ideal landing spot for Watt if he wants to make a playoff run and could help his production playing opposite of Myles Garrett — an All-Pro in his own right that demands a double-team most plays.
Browns Could Make Money Work With JJ Watt
The Browns have to improve their defense this offseason and general manager Andrew Berry has not been shy about pursuing top talent. Cleveland was in the hunt to sign former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney last offseason, but couldn’t meet his demands — which might have been a blessing in disguise.
The Browns will likely move on from veteran defensive end Olivier Vernon, who ruptured his Achilles in the final regular-season game for the Browns. Vernon came on strong down the stretch, notching nine sacks in 14 games — his most since 2013.
Watt, who will be 32 years old next season, holds a $17.5 million salary-cap charge in 2021. It’s a steep price, but with many key pieces of the defense still on rookie deals, it could be worth it to put together a defensive line that includes Sheldon Richardson, Andrew Billings, Garrett and Watt. The Browns could also pursue Watt as a free agent if the Texans decide simply to release him.