Why ESPN NFL Writer Ranks Patriots Among ‘Best Fits’ For J.J. Watt

The Texans agreed to release Watt after 10 seasons

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Where will J.J. Watt continue his NFL career?

It’s the question everyone started asking Friday as soon as the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year announced via Twitter that the Houston Texans granted his request for release.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler quickly canvassed the league and came up with five teams that are the “best fits” to sign Watt in free agency: the Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots.

Here’s why Fowler included the Patriots among that group:

I know they are in a rebuild, but this is the perfect Bill Belichick signing, adding a piece he can use as a Swiss Army knife up front. The Patriots have $50 million in cap space, some of which they will use on a quarterback. But New England’s formula starts and stops with the defense right now, and here’s to betting on a playoff run sooner rather than later.

New England is coming off its first losing season since 2000 — while Tom Brady won the Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, no less — so perhaps that’ll motivate Bill Belichick and Co. to be aggressive in the coming months.

The Patriots enter the offseason with many needs, both offensively and defensively. And while most of the focus will be on New England’s search for a new quarterback, with Cam Newton hitting free agency after an underwhelming 2020, one shouldn’t rule out the Patriots going after Watt to enhance their pass rush.

Watt, who turns 32 next month, finished with just five sacks this season, a far cry from the 17.3 he averaged per year from 2012 to 2015. He’s not exactly the dominant force he was in his prime, perhaps due in large to the various injuries he’s suffered in recent years.

But Watt is an excellent leader, a fierce competitor and someone who’s still capable of making an impact in the right situation. Maybe New England will provide the opportunity he’s looking for on the open market.

Thumbnail photo via Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports Images

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