After the Houston Texans floundered to a 4-12 season in 2020, a disastrous few months that led to the purge of Bill O'Brien and further power consolidation by Executive Vice President of Football Operations (and aspiring standup comedian) Jack Easterby, the biggest offseason storyline was supposed to surround the next phase of future Hall of Famers J.J. Watt's career.
"Where will the three-time Defensive Player of the Year ply his trade in 2021?" was supposed to be THE burning question around the NFL. As it turns out, Watt's future isn't even the most burning question surrounding his OWN TEAM. Deshaun Watson has taken care of that, forcing Watt's future to the back burner. While Texan fans everywhere await the next cryptic rap lyric shade-module thrown at the team by its quarterback, Watt is left tweeting weather updates from his Wisconsin ranch....
... and post award show pleas on behalf of his brother T.J., explaining how T.J. was jobbed in his own Defensive Player of the Year campaign against eventual winner Aaron Donald of the Rams....
Aaron Donald is an absolutely incredible player. I love watching him play & he’s headed to the Hall of Fame without question. This has nothing to do with AD personally.— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) February 7, 2021
This is me saying what my brother won’t.
TJ played 1 less game and STILL led the NFL in every major category. pic.twitter.com/m1vzrD88WU
So, needless to say, a lot has happened since we last examined the J.J. Watt market in October 2020. The Texans have hired a new GM, a new head coach, and completely alienated the one player whose presence MIGHT convince Watt to stick around Houston for the final year of his contract.
Now, to be clear, when I make it sound like Watt has a choice in the matter, some of you will say "Yeah, but he is under contract! If the Texans want to keep Watt, he can protest all he wants!", and that may be true. However, I have been led to believe by people who would know that the team intends to play ball with Watt on this, and if he had a particular place he wanted to play, they would attempt to accommodate him.
To me, the biggest question is "If Watt's preferred destination teams want HIM, but don't want to trade a draft pick to inherit his $17.5 million contract, then would the Texans just release Watt, and make him a free agent?" I don't know the answer to that question. With almost any other player, I would say that the Texans are going to do what is in the TEAM'S best interest, but Watt is just a different case. He's an icon. A beloved icon, who predates all the dysfunction that walked in the door with Bill O'Brien in 2014, and the cesspool created by Jack Easterby's bursting onto the scene in 2019. The McNairs' love for Watt goes back to a much more normal (and infinitely more pleasant) time and place for the organizations.
So whether it's via trade, or via the Texans' cutting him to go find a new chapter of his life, here are the spots I think Watt would have on his list of preferred destinations, as of early February 2021:
THE FAVORITES: Pittsburgh, Green Bay
These are fairly obvious favorites for Watt. The allure of playing with his two brothers on a Super Bowl contender has to be off the charts, and he grew up rooting for the Packers, who themselves were one home win away from playing in yesterday's Super Bowl.
THE HAPPY COUPLE PICK: Chicago
Watt's wife Kealia plays for the women's professional soccer club in Chicago, and we know that Watt enjoys spending time there. Or at the very least, he really enjoys inadvertently placing double orders of Chicago pizza.
Kea and I wanted to order pizza.— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) January 30, 2021
I went to put the order in online, but didn’t think it went through, so I ordered again.
Well the order did go through and now we have 5 pizzas, 2 orders of meatballs and our very own complimentary insulated delivery bag ??????????????? pic.twitter.com/NkQGX0zg2c
The direction the Bears decide to go at quarterback may dictate interest here. (SIDE BAR — Chicago might be a great spot for a Watt/Watson double dip trade! And, of course, I just vomited even typing that.)
THE KEVIN DURANT PICK: Kansas City
It would appear, with Patrick Mahomes set to dominate the AFC for the next decade, and have the Chiefs in the Super Bowl conversation any year he is still walking upright and playing football, the Chiefs will become the new place for ring-chasing veterans to sign for peanuts. If Watt wants to be CERTAIN he will be playing in important games in January, the Chiefs are the chalk.
THE COACHING CONNECTIONS: San Francisco, Tennessee, Baltimore
All three are playoff-caliber teams, when fully healthy, and all three have connections to Watt on their coaching staffs. Watt's former teammate DeMeco Ryans is the defensive coordinator for the Niners, Watt's former DC in 2017 Mike Vrabel is the head coach in Tennessee, and Watt's former position coach and DC Anthony Weaver has landed in Baltimore has the defensive line coach with the Ravens.
THE DARK HORSE: Los Angeles Rams
Watt would go from campaigning against Donald for Defensive Player of the Year to being a teammate of Donald. The Rams' upgrade to Matthew Stafford at QB would make Tinseltown an exciting landing spot for Watt, who would fit in great near Hollywood.
THE PURELY SPITE-DRIVEN SPOTS: Dallas, New England, Indianapolis, Seattle
These would all seem to be places where a primary motivator for choosing them is a desire to stick it to Texans' management and ownership. The Cowboys are obviously hated because it's Dallas. The Patriots are hated because they're the Patriots, and several of the minions from up there have infiltrated (and RUINED) the Texans. The Colts are the Texans' arch nemesis inside the division. Finally, Seattle has been a painful landing spot for other departed Texans, namely Duane Brown and Jadeveon Clowney. Ouch.
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