The New England Patriots are underdogs in the J.J. Watt sweepstakes.
Watt and the Houston Texans mutually parted ways Friday, with the star defensive end asking for and receiving his release after 10 seasons.
The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year — who will be free to sign with any team once his release becomes official — would provide a significant boost to the Patriots’ depleted front seven. But oddsmakers aren’t high on their chances of landing him.
DraftKings Sportsbook pegged the Pittsburgh Steelers as the favorites to sign Watt (+400), followed by the Green Bay Packers (+900). Either would be a natural landing spot, considering both of Watt’s brothers (T.J. and Derek) play for the Steelers and he’s from Wisconsin.
Next up are the Buffalo Bills (+1000) and Seattle Seahawks (+1000), followed by the Las Vegas Raiders (+1100), Miami Dolphins (+1100), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1100), Indianapolis Colts (+1200), Kansas City Chiefs (+1300) and Tennessee Titans (+1300).
In years past, the Patriots were able to successfully recruit ring-chasing veterans by promising them a realistic chance to compete for a championship. With Tom Brady now in Tampa Bay, and New England coming off a 7-9 season, that’ll be a tougher sell this time around.
It’s also not clear whether Watt would consider joining the Patriots after experiencing the dysfunction created by two Pats alums (Bill O’Brien and Jack Easterby) in Houston.
Still, pursuing the soon-to-be 32-year-old would make perfect sense for New England, which boasts the fourth-most salary cap space in the NFL — enough to quickly reconstruct a playoff-caliber roster — and badly needs D-line help.
Watt has sustained multiple major injuries in recent years and no longer is the perennial DPOY candidate he once was but he played in all 16 games for the 4-12 Texans this past season, tallying five sacks, 17 quarterback hits, one interception, seven passes defended and two forced fumbles.