JJ Watt‘s free agency is running wild and teams appear to be lining up to ink the star pass rusher to a deal. While Watt has a number of clubs vying for his services, NFL Insider John Clayton reports that the Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans are viewed as the current front-runners to land the former Defensive Player of the Year. While those three teams are looked at as the leaders in the clubhouse at the moment, Clayton notes that the Browns and Raiders are among the many teams still in the sweepstakes. According to Dianna Russini of ESPN, Watt has received several offers from teams. The best offer, per Russini, would pay him between $15-16 million per year.
Watt’s interest in the Packers is not a surprise, considering he played for the University of Wisconsin and he’s a Pewaukee, Wis. native — along with growing up a Packers fan. The Packers have reached the last two NFC Championship Games and could use some help on a defensive line that has recorded 82 sacks over the past two seasons (tied for eighth-most in the NFL). Adding a player of Watt’s caliber could be enough to get Green Bay to the Super Bowl in a loaded NFC.
The Bills and Watt have shown mutual interest and Buffalo would be an ideal fit for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Buffalo plays four down linemen, which plays toward Watt’s strengths on the defensive line. Buffalo is another team that reached its conference championship game last season, tying a franchise record with 13 regular-season victories. The Bills finished with just 38 sacks last season, tied for 15th in the NFL, so adding Watt would be a major boost to the pass rush.
It’s a bit of a surprise to see the Titans being viewed as a current leader for Watt, considering his ties with the Pittsburgh Steelers (his brothers play there) and Watt reportedly “seriously considering” the Cleveland Browns over the past week. Tennessee finished with just 19 sacks last season, which was third-fewest in the NFL, but Watt has a connection to a major part of the coaching staff.
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel was with Watt in Houston for four seasons, including his first two as linebackers coach — when Watt won his first two Defensive Player of the Year awards. Titans defensive coordinator Shane Bowen was a defensive assistant with the Texans in 2016 and 2017, spelling more familiarity for Watt with the defensive system.
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Watt played all 16 games this past season and finished with just five sacks, 17 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, and 29 pressures. He has just 26.5 sacks over the past five seasons, but his three Defensive Player of the Year awards are tied for the most in NFL history with Lawrence Taylor and Aaron Donald.
Watt set Texans’ franchise records in sacks (101.0), tackles for loss (172), quarterback hits (282) and forced fumbles (25) to go with 531 total tackles, 61 passes defensed and 16 fumble recoveries. Watt is also the only player in NFL history with 20-plus sacks and 10-plus passes defensed in the same season (2012 and 2014), and is tied for fifth among defensive linemen in league history with six regular-season touchdowns. He’s also the fourth-fastest player in NFL history to reach 100 sacks.