1. J.J. WATT. Watt asked Houston ownership for his release, and received it. I doubt it was that simple, honestly. New GM Nick Caserio, who has no relationship to speak of with Watt, very likely wanted to put him on the market to see if he could get a third, fourth or fifth-round pick for him. In the Belichick world, emotion doesn’t win football games, but a mid-round draft pick might. Anyway, the Texans, even if it took some coaxing from Watt (who didn’t sound very lovey-dovey toward the franchise in his goodbye video on Twitter), did the right thing on Friday, letting him go five weeks before free-agency begins, so Watt can choose his next team.
Watt is the most celebrated player in the future of the franchise, with three Defensive Player of the Year awards, and he also spearheaded the raising of $41.6 million in 2017 and ’18 to help Houston-area causes after Hurricane Harvey. That money helped rebuild 1,183 homes in the Houston area, funded 971 after-school programs, distributed 240 million meals to the needy, provided mental health care for 8,900 locals, and procured 337,000 prescriptions for low-income patients. This is not the guy you dangle for the 133rd pick in the draft. This is the guy you stick out your right hand, shake his hand, and say, “Thank you, J.J., for everything. This franchise and this city can never repay you for the player and humanitarian you’ve been.”
3. THE WATT MARKET. I asked eight people, off the record, in NFL front offices what Watt would be worth, if the Texans had tried to trade him. I started the foraging mission thinking Watt would fetch a third-rounder in return, because of his age, his 2021 salary ($17.5 million), and his injury history. Turns out my thought was too rich. The salary is a factor, in these cap-strapped times, though most people think the signing would come with a contract extension lowering the 2021 cap number to a pittance. But no one’s sure how much they’ll get in a football sense from a player who, since turning 30, has missed eight games in two years and has nine sacks in the other 24 games. The best intel I can project, now that a signing team would have to give no draft-choice compensation: Watt’s likely to try to sign with a strong contender that could pay him his going rate over, say, the next two years. But that could change if a team he really likes needs to be financially flexible. Watch this video from my chat with him in Green Bay 18 months ago, and tell me he wouldn’t want to play for the Packers.
If I had to guess the teams that would be most interested, I’d say Buffalo, Cleveland, Kansas City, Tennessee, Indianapolis and Green Bay. This move would not really be in Packer tradition, though they did sign Charles Woodson at 30 and he had seven good years there. We’ll see.