Recently released Texans pass-rusher JJ Watt got a shoutout from the Portland Trail Blazers guard on Tuesday, with multiple reports circulating that the former Defensive Player of the Year is interested in Cleveland.
“Figured I waited enough days for things to chill out,” McCollum wrote. “You’re more than welcome to come to Cleveland to play for my Browns. Defense would be sensational. Just a thought [JJ Watt]. Let me know if you need anything in Ohio. Plus we get plenty of snow. Blessings.”
McCollum did the same with free-agent cornerback Richard Sherman earlier this offseason, telling him he’d be happy to give him recommendations on where to live and eat.
JJ Watt Would Fill Big Need for Browns
One of the biggest needs for the Cleveland Browns this offseason is at defensive end, where the team would like to land an impact player to play opposite of All-Pro pass-rusher Myles Garrett.
Watt is reportedly “seriously considering” the Browns because the team has both the money to sign him to a nice deal and Super Bowl potential, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
Watt has a hefty resume that includes three Defensive Player of the Year honors, five First-Team All-Pro selections and 101 career sacks. Watt has dealt with injuries, playing 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.
Watt asked for his release from Houston earlier this month and the team quickly granted his release.
“I came here 10 years ago as a kid from Wisconsin who had never really been to Texas before, and now I can’t imagine my life without Texas in it,” Watt said in a social media goodbye. “The way you guys have treated me, besides draft night, every day after that you treated me like family.”
If Watt does land in Cleveland, it’d set up a rivalry matchup with his two brothers, TJ and Derek, who play for the Steelers.
Browns Need Capable Threat Opposite Myles Garrett
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.
Adding a capable and consistent threat opposite of Garrett would be a massive addition for the Browns. Garrett inked a massive extension last offseason and proved to be worth every penny. He was one of the NFL’s most disruptive forces off the edge, collecting 12 sacks, two pass deflections and four forced fumbles in 14 games.
“I’m never happy with losing,” Garrett said after the season during the league’s Pro Bowl event. “We are always trying to go to the very end and be there. We have a young core. We go back, keep building on what we have this year and take another crack at it.”
Browns Eager to Add on Defense
The Browns have made some massive additions to the offensive side of the ball over the last two seasons — from Kareem Hunt, to Jack Conklin, Odell Beckham Jr. and Austin Hooper. But it appears time for Cleveland to turn their attention to the defensive side of the ball.
“We can have improvement anywhere,” general manager Andrew Berry told reporters after the season ended. “Understand that obviously we think we can certainly boost the defense as we go into 2021. It is probably too early to make any declarative or definitive statements, but certainly understand the strengths and weaknesses of the team.”
The Browns will be getting healthy next season with safety Grant Delpit and cornerback Greedy Williams expect to return from injuries that forced them to miss the entirety of last season. The two young defenders — Delpit a rookie last season and Williams in his second season — were both projected to be starters.