J.J. Watt, one of the greatest pass rushers in NFL history, asked for his released from Houston after a 10-year career with the Texans, and it was granted by the team on Friday morning. Instead of trading Watt and getting compensation, the team complied with his wishes so that he could become a free agent and choose his next destination immediately.

Will that place be Tampa Bay? Watt hasn’t had much luck in the playoffs despite six appearances over the last decade, as the Texans have never advanced to the AFC Championship Game.

Watt had grown frustrated by the organization’s losing ways, as the Texans finished 4-12 in 2020 and had a playoff record of 4-6 during his time in Houston. The Texans have a new head coach in David Culley and a new general manager in Nick Casero this year, and star quarterback Deshaun Watson has asked to be traded.

With the Bucs fresh off winning Super Bowl LV, Watt might want a chance to play with legendary quarterback Tom Brady and in Todd Bowles’ 3-4 defense where he would be a good fit schematically. The 6-foot-5, 288-pound Watt has primarily played left defensive end in Romeo Crennell’s 3-4 system, and could play there in Bowles’ defense or as an outside linebacker.

Bucs LT Donovan Smith and Texans DE J.J. Watt

Bucs LT Donovan Smith and Texans DE J.J. Watt – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Watt was entering the final year of his contract where he was scheduled to make $17.5 million. Finding a trading partner next month with that kind of cap space for 32-year old defensive end would have proved impossible in a year in which the salary cap is expected to fall to $181 million from $198 million a year ago.

The Bucs are expected to have just over $28 million in salary cap room in 2021 and have several of their own free agents to re-sign, including outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, inside linebacker Lavonte David, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, wide receiver Chris Godwin, tight end Rob Gronkowski and kicker Ryan Succop among others. Watt may not be high on the Bucs’ wish list because of his age (32) and his extensive injury history, and what it would cost to sign him. Signing Watt may come at the expense of Tampa bay not being able to bring back another player, such as Barrett.

In his prime, Watt was a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2012, 2014, 2015), a five-time first-team All-Pro (2012-15, 2018), a three-time second-team All-Pro (2014-15, 2018), a five-time Pro Bowler (2012-15, 2018), and the Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2017. Watt joined elite company this year as he topped 100 career sacks with 101 in his 10-year career.

Watt’s last Pro Bowl appearance came in 2018 when he recorded 16 sacks in 16 games. He played in just eight games over two seasons prior to that due to injuries, and missed eight more games to injuries yet again the following year in 2019.

Watt has totaled 531 tackles, 101 sacks, 61 pass break-ups, 25 forced fumbles, 16 fumble recoveries, four defensive touchdowns and two interceptions in a decade in Houston. While he is no longer the elite pass rusher that he was when he led the NFL in sacks with 20.5 and 17.5 in 2012 and 2015, respectively, Watt is still a very good defensive player, earning an 85.5 overall grade from Pro Football Focus in 2020 with an 81 run defense grade and a 76.7 pass rush grade.

He totaled 52 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 17 QB hits, seven pass breakups, five sacks, two forced fumbles, an interception and a touchdown last year in his final season in Houston. Yet he recorded just one sack in his final eight games with Houston, which could be an obvious sign of decline for the aging superstar.

Watt was the Texans’ first-round pick in 2011 where he was the 11th overall selection.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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eaustinyoung
5 months ago

ONLY if Barrett walks for $100M and they draft an EDGE. Need to build some longevity or in 5 years the Bucs could be right back to the bottom of the NFC South. Tampa has never done well at building a long-term system.

thewbacca
5 months ago

Vet minimum 1 year deal and cut if even that salary prevents key free agents from being resigned.

bucballer
5 months ago

I think the point is, as fans, we shouldn’t get too high or too low on a particular player coming or going. The Bucs will have access to some great replacement choices should the need occur. Tampa is a favorite destination spot now for NFL players. The Bucs will be fine. I just can’t wait to see how it all plays out. If Shaq leaves, it would be a lot of fun to see how Watts would perform for Tampa for a year or two. I believe I mentioned this very possibility a couple of days ago…we will see! Go… Read more »

Spitfire
Reply to  bucballer
5 months ago

Jon was talking about it on the podcast immediately after the Super Bowl. I would be happy with it if he was just looking for a place to win now since he’s already made his money.

bucballer
Reply to  Spitfire
5 months ago

Yep! For one season or two if the price is right. Guy still demands a double team.

Kramerica Industries
Reply to  bucballer
5 months ago

“Tampa is a favorite destination spot now for NFL players. “ To a certain extent, it always should’ve been. Warmer weather, coastal location with beaches, plenty of strip clubs (you know there’s people who enjoy those whether they’d admit it or not), no state income tax…that the Bucs have the NFL’s worst win percentage by a country mile is such an indictment on how this franchise has been run in its history when you consider all of that. We’re not New York/LA/Chicago territory and never will be, I get that, but once you get past the huge markets, there’s no reason… Read more »

RW
RW
5 months ago

For sure go after him. He is better than Barrett and will come in cheaper. The window is 2 years max with Brady ; who cares what happens in 4-5 years if the Bucs have won 2 Lombardis.

eaustinyoung
Reply to  RW
5 months ago

I get it, but maybe I’m the weird one who actually enjoys Bucs football. Would rather not have another 10+ years of being a suckfest.

Spitfire
Reply to  eaustinyoung
5 months ago

Exactly. I have no problem with them adding Vets like this if it doesn’t break the bank and doesn’t cause us to have to lose any young talent. I’d love more than anything to repeat but not at the cost of being in the cellar for another 18 years.

RW
RW
Reply to  eaustinyoung
5 months ago

But like any sports teams there are highs and lows. If Brady was 30 I would agree with you but the reality is that after he is done the Bucs won’t get a QB like him for a few years at least. That means you go all in for his window. And if you can get a JJ Watt for 2 years at less money than Shaq you do it. Cap space is at a premium next year so savings $4-5 million is huge.

bucballer
Reply to  eaustinyoung
5 months ago

Forget about 10 years from now! Enjoy the ride while it lasts. I’d like to win back to back Lombardis!

cgmaster27
5 months ago

Im all for this, especially if we lose shaq. Watt can play anywhere on the line and probably at this point wants a ring. If you can get him for like 8 mill a year, take him. He is perfect for this team.

Buc76
5 months ago

let’s not forget Shaq Barrett disappeared when Vita Vea was out. He’s not worth a mega contract. He made clear it’s time to break the bank. That’s not what we’re about here right now. JJ Watt is younger than JPP. Imagine him on the other side.I would get him no matter what. He’s hungry. He’ll do anything to win a Super Bowl and we need a few of those guys to make sure we don’t get soft. I bet he’s already texting with Brady about coming here

Spitfire
Reply to  Buc76
5 months ago

That’s what I’ve been saying. I like Shaw and knew he would show up here but he is obviously pedestrian when we don’t have a push up the middle. I know he’s got good moves and gets consistent pressure but seeing the difference of Vea being in and not, I think if Shaw is gonna chase the money then he’s not the team player we thought he was and talked like (which is his prerogative) then I think we could more easily find someone that will benefit just as much from Vea’s presence than replacing some of the other FAs.… Read more »

EricNV
Reply to  Buc76
5 months ago

“Shaq disappeared”? He only had the second most QB pressures in the NFL this past season. Yeah, he disappeared alright…

RW
RW
Reply to  EricNV
5 months ago

Shaq did disappear for some games. He also benefited from the Bucs blitzing a lot and getting mismatches. He’s a good player but he is not rated in the top 10 in his position in the NFL. I’d love for him to come back at $13-$15 million year but its sounds like he wants $20 million plus. And if he makes that on the Bucs say goodbye to Godwin or David or both.

Naplesfan
5 months ago

We are not a rebuilding team – we need take no risks with any expensive free agent signings. Far better to keep Shaq than to switch horses now.
Watt has been a dominant player in the distant past, but he’s had a lot of limitations due to injury, and his age is not a plus. He could certainly play longer in the league, but nobody who is already sitting on a quality roster is going to pay anywhere remotely near $17+ million for Watt.

Last edited 5 months ago by Naplesfan
bucballer
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 months ago

Naples… it’s not a matter of either,or. It only happens if Shaq looks to “break the bank” like he has stated. That won’t happen in Tampa Bay. IF it were to happen, Watts would be an adequate replacement and no it won’t happen at $17 mil per. More like 8-10 mil on a one or two year deal. It will be at a discount due to Watts’s age, injury history. Probably would be an incentive laden contract based on games played and production. Any signing of any player would have to benefit the Bucs due to salary implications.

RW
RW
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 months ago

Check out his stats in 2020. more snaps than Barrett and a much higher grade. and he won’t take $10 million per year.

EricNV
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 months ago

I agree. That defensive line has chemistry right now. Why screw with it if you don’t have to.

RW
RW
Reply to  EricNV
5 months ago

Why? Salary Cap!!!!

Horse
5 months ago

At this point I would focus on a draft or 2 for our DL. JP and Barrett will be fine.

Spitfire
Reply to  Horse
5 months ago

Barrett only stays if he understands his performance last year doesn’t deserve bank breaking money.

EricNV
Reply to  Spitfire
5 months ago

Barrett had the second most QB pressures in the NFL this past season. Why the hell would you overlook that?

RW
RW
Reply to  EricNV
5 months ago

So pay him $20 plus million a year then?

bucballer
5 months ago

Need to resign Suh for one more year before he starts taking meetings with Warren Buffet as his protege. Suh has done quite well with his finances. He doesn’t need the money. It would be to chase another ring. He’s still a beast in the middle. With him and Vea, side by side they r still a very formidable duo!

PissedOffBuc1988
Reply to  bucballer
5 months ago

Suh imo can play for at least 2 more years like he has. He’s rejuvenated his career here. He’s a monster against the run and hes still a crushing tackler and finisher. He brings the alpha dog mentality to this defense and is not afraid to talk, Knowing he can back it up. Imo suh and david need to be our top priority. We can replace the offensive production, it’s the defense that we need to make sure is good first. I don’t blame guys for going after money, but you would think 5-10 mill guaranteed should more than suffice,… Read more »

iowabucs
5 months ago

Would be a good addition and would fit schematically. Would the Bucs be able to replace Gholston with Watt? No dead cap according to Spotrac. Likely just a little bit larger cap hit.

eaustinyoung
Reply to  iowabucs
5 months ago

Gholston is the most consistent run-stopper we’ve had for 8 years. He comes cheap and is great in the run game. I’d like to hold onto him.

PissedOffBuc1988
Reply to  eaustinyoung
5 months ago

A ton of truth in this statement.

RW
RW
Reply to  eaustinyoung
5 months ago

If you can get JJ Watt for twice the price as Gholston you do it. Do you realize how good he actually is?

EricNV
Reply to  RW
5 months ago

If JJ Watt is willing to take about the same amount as Gholston, I would be tempted. However, Gholston has been very healthy the past couple years and Watts hasn’t.

PissedOffBuc1988
5 months ago

If barrett leaves, absolutely. This isn’t bruce allen were talking about when it comes to drafting. This is Jason Licht who has shown increased improvement from when he got here to now. I’m not concerned one bit about not being set up for the future. With that said, going for watt is an awesome move and would make our defense even greater. With Vita vea, watt would get double digit sacks. No question. Also would be able to spell him and like gronk, watt would not be asked to be the guy on every down here like he was in… Read more »

surferdudes
5 months ago

The days of the Bucs pursuing F.A’s. is over Scott. Free agents will be pursuing the Bucs from now on. Watt’s looking for a shot at winning it all, not a big pay day. His days are all but over. He needs a team he doesn’t have to carry, but contribute to. There will be others like him, who will be looking for a shot at a ring, with Brady. The Brady effect, like teaming up with LaBron. Come cheap, or don’t, we ‘ll get someone who will.

SoberInSac
5 months ago

Pass

Knightrider79
5 months ago

To be honest, I would just concentrate on resigning our own guys. They take top priority. Once they’re signed then we can look outside to see who’s available.

plopes808
5 months ago

If we can’t get Shaq to agree to a reasonable contract, Watt makes sense as a stop gap while we develop our 1st round edge rusher

lambeau
5 months ago

The Bucs might not repeat if JPP or Shaq gets hurt., so I’d go after Watt for awesome depth. When Revis left the Bucs in 2014, Belichick gave him 2/$32M–but the deal was vet minimum plus a $10M signing bonus and a $20M second year (they never intended to pay)–the bonus spread out meant the 2014 cap hit was only $7M–JJ would take much less. He has a lot left.

fredster
5 months ago

It was cheap one year deal for him maybe. Don’t see it happening though.

drdneast
5 months ago

Watt appears to be on the downside of his career after numerous injuries in recent years. I doubt he would take a little over minimum salary for his services but who knows how much wearing a SB ring would weigh in his decision making process.