J.J. Watt makes perfect sense for the Cleveland Browns
By Nick Pedone
Even before J.J. Watt’s release from the Houston Texans, the Cleveland Browns made sense as a future home.
It would have taken some magic to rearrange cap space for his now-alleviated $17.5 million price tag, as well as trading somewhat significant draft capital to land the future Hall of Famer in Cleveland, but the possibility was always there.
But now, none of that matters.
On Friday, Watt was released from the Houston Texans after asking to part ways with the organization, according to a video he tweeted.
Watt’s departure from Houston comes from the visible dysfunction that is the Houston Texans organization right now. An impending trade or holdout of superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson mixed with the team’s prior incompetence, highlighted by the hiring of David Culley and Watt got out too.
And the Cleveland Browns make perfect sense to snag him up.
Now, the Pittsburgh Steelers employ Watt’s brothers, T.J. and Derek, who are already publicly campaigning for their brother to join them in “Blitzburgh.” But the Steelers are a cap space nightmare right now and do not have the ability to sign another Watt without cutting, trading and restructuring key pieces. It’s a financial longshot.
When it comes to cash, the Browns are not exactly John D. Rockefeller, either.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry’s big contracts are the easy ones to point out, but Sheldon Richardson could be restructured, too. Watt would not carry the main workload that burdened him in Houston, thanks to Myles Garrett, Richardson and Denzel Ward defensively. Perhaps this smaller role, on a one or two-year deal could be enticing for a veteran.
If the Browns elect to pick up the fifth-year option on Baker Mayfield and wait until next offseason to extend him, acquiring Watt becomes feasible. The Browns could “go all-in” on a title run this season in a similar fashion to what the Seattle Seahawks did with Russell Wilson on his rookie deal.
Does he want to be one of the highest-paid players in the history of the sport and rot with a team like the New York Jets or Jacksonville Jaguars, or does he want that coveted ring? Reports indicate the ladder is the truth and Watt will be pursuing a Super Bowl in his next destination.
This offseason, it is easy to point to the linebacking group and defensive backs for the Browns. Those the areas that need the most attention. But, the team is likely losing Olivier Vernon and Larry Ogunjobi, so signing Watt would be an instant replacement up front. They can focus on other position groups in the NFL Draft and develop talent in house.
Pairing Garrett with a quality defensive end needs to be high on the priority list for general manager Andrew Berry. The formula to beat Patrick Mahomes was put on display for the world to see during Super Bowl LV.
Garrett was double-teamed a tremendous amount in 2020. When Vernon went down, Garrett was getting all the attention defensively. But guess who was doubled more this season?
You guessed it.
Injuries are a concern for Watt, who will be 32 in March. But it’s not enough of a concern to let him sign elsewhere.
In 2020, Watt started all 16 games in Houston. The year before, he missed eight games. But in 2018, he started all 16 games as well. The good news for the Browns is that Curtis Weaver will be available as a rotational defensive end this season and at least one of Cleveland’s nine draft picks will be a defensive end, even if Watt signs.
Garrett and Mayfield frequent Texas throughout the offseason. Perhaps a recruiting visit to Watt in Houston could be in the works.
Much of the decision will come down to the price tag. If Watt understands he needs to take a discount to be apart of something great, the Browns could be a tremendous fit to pursue a championship together.