On Friday three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt announced via Twitter that he has asked Houston Texans ownership to release him, and that “we have mutually agreed to part ways at this time.”
Of course, that makes J.J. Watt, 31, an unrestricted free agent—free to sign with any NFL team.
Perhaps not surprisingly, his younger brother T.J., who plays outside linebacker for the Steelers, immediately took to Twitter to encourage him to come to Pittsburgh.
— TJ Watt (@_TJWatt) February 12, 2021
If J.J. Watt does sign with Pittsburgh, the organization would employ all three of the Watt brothers, as brother Derek, a fullback, is in the midst of a three-year contract he inked with the Steelers last offseason.
What Are the Chances of J.J. Watt Signing with the Steelers?
As for the prospect of J.J. coming to the Steelers, it’s a lot more realistic than it was yesterday, when Watt had one year remaining on his contract with a 2021 salary of $17.5 million (and a move from Houston to Pittsburgh would have required a trade).
Still, Pittsburgh’s salary cap challenges make it unlikely that they could afford to add more Watt-age. For one, J.J. plays a position—defensive end—where the Steelers already have a lot of money invested in starters Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, among others. (Heyward has a cap number of $14.55 million in 2020 while Tuitt is set to count $14.94 million against the cap, this according to overthecap.com).
Does J.J. Watt Want to Play with His Brothers?
In addition, J.J. Watt may prefer to link up with a team that has a more realistic chance at the Super Bowl in 2021, with possible suitors including the Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills.
That would explain a new report from Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland, who indicates that J.J. “doesn’t [emphasis added] want to play with his brothers” in Pittsburgh.
.@TonyGrossi on JJ Watt "I am told that he doesn't want to play with his brothers (both on Steelers)"
— ESPN Cleveland (@ESPNCleveland) February 12, 2021
This isn’t to say that J.J. doesn’t want to help his brothers succeed. In fact, he recently served as T.J.’s promotional wingman in hopes that his younger brother would win his first NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, which went to Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald (again) in 2020.
There’s also a question of how much tread J.J. Watt has on his tires. In his first five seasons in the NFL, J.J. started all 16 games each year and was named first-team All-Pro four times, winning the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2012, 2014 and 2015. In the past five years he has made a total of 48 starts and his numbers have declined significantly.
On the other hand, he isn’t that far removed from his performance in 2018, when he was named first-team All-Pro after recording 16 sacks and forcing a career-high seven fumbles.
Meanwhile, T.J. Watt’s star is still rising. In 2020 he set new career highs in sacks (15) and tackles for loss (23), despite appearing in just 15 games.
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