Could veteran pass rusher J.J. Watt find himself with a ‘G’ on his helmet next season? Fans of the Green Bay Packers have been dreaming of landing the Houston Texans superstar pass rusher for years, and this offseason is likely the best chance they’ll have to see that happen.
Based on the latest reports coming out of Houston, Watt wants out, and his current team is more than likely going to accommodate his request. Analyst and radio host John P. Lopez, who is based in Houston, recently Tweeted that Watt would “likely be moved” after a turbulent few years down in Texas:
Been out of pocket all day doing family stuff, but catching up on texts from sources:
Texans are leaning toward accommodating J.J. and he'll likely be moved. And Deshaun is, in fact, legit alienated.
"Pretty much irreparable," I'm told.
Also: "You'll hear from J.J. next."
— John P. Lopez (@LopezOnSports) January 16, 2021
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Watt Could Finally Come Home
A Waukesha, Wisconsin native, the 31-year-old defensive end grew up a fan of the Packers, playing ball at Pewaukee High School. He briefly attended Central Michigan on a scholarship, playing tight end for a season before heading back home, where he finished his collegiate career with the Wisconsin Badgers. He earned first-team All-American and first-team Big Ten selections as a Badger, and was selected 11th overall in 2011 by the Texans.
The five-time All-Pro has 101 career sacks, and despite suffering knee, back and pectoral injuries over his last five seasons, he started all 16 games two of his last three years. And while he has lost a step, he is still a formidable force on the line. Watt had 52 total tackles, seven passes defensed, five sacks, 14 tackles for loss and a pick-six this past season. His five sacks would have been tied with Rashan Gary for second on the Packers ‘D’ this season, behind Za’Darius Smith’s 12.5.
With things in a state of discomfort and disarray in Houston, some are saying now is the time for Watt to head North and return to his home state — a place he already trains in the offseason, anyway. Watt’s wife, soccer star Kealia Watt, plays forward for the Chicago Red Stars, so he would be much closer to her year-round, as well.
J.J. Watt Dubbed ‘Real Possibility’ for Packers. Next Season
According to Max Staley of Fan Duel, the time is now for the Packers to trade for Watt:
Watt joining up with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers is a long-rumored option for the Wisconsin native. Though it’s always felt like a bit of a pipe dream for the Green Bay faithful, and more the type of thing you’d see on Packers’ message boards or comment sections. However, it now appears to be a real possibility. Green Bay checks a lot of boxes for Watt. He’d get to play for a Super Bowl contender as a hometown hero, and the Packers’ defense desperately needs someone of Watt’s caliber. Green Bay is a bottom-10 defense in terms of pressure rate (21.5%) … Pairing Watt with studs like Za’Darius Smith and Kenny Clark could instantly turn a weakness into a real strength for the Packers.
For his part, Watt said the following about the Packers and their fans earlier this season, per USA Today: “It’s an incredible fan base that they have. Incredible people, obviously. I was fortunate to grow up there. I absolutely respect and appreciate the loyalty that their fan base has to that team.”
He would likely appreciate it more running out of the tunnels of Lambeau Field and onto the Frozen Tundra.
Could the Packers Swing Watt’s Contract?
Watt is in the final year of his contract, and he’s set to make $17.5 million next season, so the Packers would need to get rid of a player or two to make room. That’s where Preston Smith comes in. Green Bay could save $12 million by cutting Smith before March, which is a move the team seems very likely to make. Cutting offensive lineman Rick Wagner would also free up $4.25 million, so while the Packers are currently sitting towards the bottom of the league in available cap space next season, there are moves that can be made.
One thing is certain: Watt does not seem keen on returning to the team that drafted him. “There’s a whole lot of unknowns, so we’ll see what happens next,” Watt said, via Aaron Reiss of The Athletic, after the Texans’ season finale. “I don’t have any guarantees left in my contract, so something’s gotta happen one way or another.”
Could that something be a homecoming of sorts for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year? That’s still unclear, but the odds may be higher than ever.