The Texans agreed to release star defensive end J.J. Watt on Friday after 10 seasons in Houston. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year had grown unhappy with the Texans organization and clearly decided that a change was needed.
And from Houston’s perspective, his salary was never one they planned on paying in 2021. Rather than search for trade partners, the Texans opted to release him allowing him to sign with a team of his choice in free agency.
Could that team be the Jets?
The NY Jets should definitely consider signing J.J. Watt
Despite his age and recent injury history, Watt is still playing at an exceptionally high level. Don’t let his lack of sack production in 2020 fool you (only 5.0 sacks), Watt was one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL.
Pro Football Focus gave Watt an elite 85.5 overall grade which ranked seventh among all edge defenders in the league. His run-defense grade ranked top-10 and his pass-rush grade ranked top-20.
By all accounts, he was an extremely valuable player.
Perhaps the greatest reason for his lack of sack production — aside from the usual luck that factors into it — was his incredibly high double-team rate.
No edge defender was double-teamed at a higher rate than Watt, and it wasn’t really close. Despite this, he still had one of the highest pass-rush win rates in the league.
This excellent chart by ESPN’s Seth Walder is proof of that.
Double team rate as an edge (x) by pass rush win rate as an edge (y) for the 2020 regular season.
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) January 20, 2021
The age and prior injury history are genuine concerns with Watt. He turns 32-years-old in March and has missed significant time in three of the last five seasons. But in both 2018 and 2020, he played a full 16-game slate.
Watt is still performing at an incredibly high level, and for the right price, it makes sense for the Jets to target him. Especially given their need at defensive end.
The Jets don’t have many (if any) true 4-3 defensive ends on the roster. Watt played primarily a five-technique role with Houston with the ability to shift inside on passing downs. That’s exactly what the Jets are looking for.
The only problem is that there will likely be teams that are either more aggressive in their pursuit of Watt or teams that are more appealing for the five-time All-Pro.
Watt will likely value winning over money at this stage of his career meaning that the Jets aren’t an ideal landing spot. They have the financial flexibility to make a move, but they likely won’t have the desire to add a 33-year-old with injury concerns.
At least not the desire that teams closer to winning a championship will have.
J.J. Watt would undeniably be an excellent addition at the right price. And while it may not be likely that the Jets land him, it’s a move that should be considered.