The biggest news to come out of the NFL this week did not involve trading a high-profile quarterback, as many expected. Instead, it was the announcement that the Houston Texans had come to terms on the release of J.J. Watt at the player’s request.
Watt’s decade-long tenure with the franchise comes to an end as he becomes the latest in the superstar departure from Houston, joining the likes of DeAndre Hopkins, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, George Springer, and Gerritt Cole, all of whom left for other teams over the last year. Deshaun Watson will likely join that list this offseason once his demands for a trade are met.
Reports indicated that at least 12 teams reached out to Watt’s representatives to express interest in signing the defensive end, including the Browns, Bills, and Titans. However, oddsmakers seem to indicate four clubs stand out more than the rest. Let’s take a look at the odds-on favorites.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+175)
The Steelers are the early favorites to acquire Watt, which would unite him with his brothers, Derek and T.J., who also play in Pittsburgh. T.J. has spent his entire four-year career in black and yellow and finished as the runner-up to Aaron Donald for Defensive Player of the Year this past season. Derek, a fullback, signed with the Steelers before last season after beginning his career with the Chargers.
The monkey wrench in a Watt family reunion is the Steelers’ cap situation. Still, some have already projected that J.J. would take considerably less than his market value to play with his brothers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+200)
The Super Bowl champions will remain in win-now mode as long as Tom Brady remains their quarterback. Brady is signed for one more year and has expressed a willingness to play until he’s at least 45. The Bucs have a bounty of free agent decisions to make this offseason, including defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Shaq Barrett.
If one or both depart Tampa, Watt could fill the void and immediately slide into a championship-level defense.
Green Bay Packers (+550)
The Packers have advanced to back-to-back NFC Championship Games, falling to the 49ers and Bucs in their quest to return to a Super Bowl. Adding Watt would make sense in that he’s an elite pass-rusher that could help Green Bay get over the hump, but he also grew up in Wisconsin and played for the Badgers collegiately.
Watt and Aaron Rodgers are good friends who are frequently seen together at other sporting events. Still, if the MVP departed this offseason (Packers officials have stated he isn’t going anywhere), you can cross Green Bay off this list.
Baltimore Ravens (+650)
If Watt doesn’t join his brothers in Pittsburgh, he could play against them twice by joining a division rival. Like the Packers, the Ravens are close to becoming contenders but haven’t been able to get out of the Divisional Round the last two postseasons.
Lamar Jackson’s extension will likely be the team’s top priority this offseason. However, if either Matthew Judon or Yannick Ngakoue leave in free agency, Watt would become a top target to replace them.