Future Hall-of-Fame defensive lineman J.J. Watt is now a free agent, and it would make a lot of sense if the Tennessee Titans signed him.
The three-time Defensive Player of the Year hit the open market on Friday after the Houston Texans released him. The Titans are among the many teams interested in his services, according to a report by Ed Werder of ESPN.
Watt, who played under Titans head coach Mike Vrabel when Vrabel was the defensive coordinator in Houston, would be a good fit in Tennesse, but the organization would need to make two other important moves to maximize his impact.
Houston, I wanted you to hear this directly from me… pic.twitter.com/YqT3P6Lb6l
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) February 12, 2021
First, the Titans would need to sign a top-of-the-line free-agent edge rusher to pair with Watt.
While Watt would certainly provide the Titans with an immediate upgrade on their defensive front, he is not a true edge rusher.
Watt is at his best when he plays on the interior of the defensive line as a three-technique and, thus, would not solve the Titans’ massive problem at outside linebacker.
Spending money on an interior defensive lineman of Watt’s caliber would be very wise on the Titans’ part, considering they desperately need more pass-rush production and that few interior linemen in NFL history have created pressure as consistently and intensely as Watt.
But if the Titans, in the event they sign Watt, fail to also upgrade their crop of outside linebackers, which currently features Harold Landry and pretty much no one else, Watt’s elite abilities would likely go to waste.
From NFL sources
NFL sources: Approximately a dozen teams have shown interest in JJ Watt since he became an immediate unrestricted free agent. Included among those teams are the #Steelers, #Browns, #Bills and #Titans.
— Ed Werder (@WerderEdESPN) February 13, 2021
Additionally, if the Titans sign Watt, they would need to move on from defensive lineman Da’Quan Jones.
Jones has had a solid career with the Titans since the team drafted him in 2014. He always gets a good push in the running game, and he earned a $21 million contract back in 2018.
However, unlike Watt, Jones is really nothing special as a player.
He’s solid, and he was certainly worth the fourth-round pick the Titans spent on him, but he’s not a gamechanger. He’s easily replaceable, and his replacement could already be on the Titans’ roster in second-year DL Larrell Murchison.
Jones will hit the free-agent market when his contract officially expires in March and, if the Titans sign Watt before then, they need to let Jones walk and focus their limited cap space on players that will make more of an impact.
That’s not a shot at Jones. Again, he’s been a solid player who’s rightfully beloved by his coaches and teammates.
At the end of the day, though, the NFL is a business, and Jones just doesn’t make enough of an impact to warrant the Titans giving him a third contract on top of signing Watt to play on the defensive line.
That money would be better spent on an edge pass rusher, a receiver or an inside linebacker.
Since the Texans released Watt, he is free to sign with a team whenever he wants and doesn’t have to wait until March like other impending free agents with expiring contracts. That means we’ll likely know relatively soon where he’s going to be playing in 2021 and beyond.
It seems like there’s a decent chance that Nashville will be his destination, but it would only be a good move on the Titans’ part if they’re able to give him some help on the edge.
- Vrabel image: George Walker IV / The Tennessean
- Watt image: Troy Taormina / USA Today