The Dallas Cowboys offseason wishlist just grew a bit bigger. Early Friday morning NFL insider Ian Rapoport dropped a bomb on the league when he announced that the cross-state Houston Texans have officially released star defensive end, J.J. Watt.
Watt has been the face of the Texans’ franchise since they drafted him with the 11th overall pick in the 2011 draft. Since coming into the league he has been an absolute monster, racking up 101 sacks in 128 games to go along with five Pro Bowls and five first-team All-Pro awards. He holds Houston franchise records for sacks, tackles for a loss, and forced fumbles.
He’s also one of just three players in league history to be awarded the Defensive Player of the Year award three times (Lawrence Taylor and Aaron Donald are the only others) and was a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2010s All-Decade Team. His impact off the field is enormous and in 2017 he was given the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award for his efforts with Hurricane Harvey relief.
Between Houston’s ongoing saga with star quarterback Deshaun Watson, instability in their front office, and a new head coach coming in, the Texans are an absolute mess right now (that’s putting it nicely). While it’s a bit surprising the team outright released Watt, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the defensive end asked out.
Watt now joins wide receivers Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins as the latest in what’s quickly becoming a long line of Texans stars who will likely finish their career elsewhere. The now free agent defensive end took to Twitter to share the news with fans himself.
So should the Dallas Cowboys try to sign J.J. Watt?
What J.J. Watt would bring to the Dallas Cowboys feels obvious, he’s a future Hall of Fame pass rusher who offers them as much on the field as he does off it and in the locker room. Even in the backend of his career, Watt commands attention and game planning from opposing offenses in a way that most players just simply don’t. He also played every game last season and a change of scenery could do him nicely.
Watt could be a great fit in new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s scheme. He posted modest numbers in 2020, some of the lowest of his career for a full 16 game season, but adding him to a defensive line with DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory would help make the Cowboys even more disruptive off the edge.
More than that, he’d be a big asset for a defense that still has a few younger players coming into their own. For what it’s worth, Lawrence has already taken to Twitter to start stoking the flames of the league’s hot stove.
Let’s be honest though, they shouldn’t just hand him a blank check. The Cowboys should absolutely make a push to keep the star defensive end in the lone star state, but there is some definite risk in making a serious run at Watt. Even if he isn’t the same player he was in 2015, he’s a generational talent who surely won’t come cheaply.
Due to his release, Watt doesn’t need to wait until the new league year begins in March to sign somewhere, so expect teams to immediately line up to court him. If a bidding war starts to get out of hand, Dallas’ first priority still needs to be signing quarterback Dak Prescott to a long-term deal.
While it’s not necessarily an either/or scenario, they still need to be realistic. Signing Watt firmly puts the Cowboys in a win-now mode, but that won’t matter if they fail to take care of business by neglecting to lock up their franchise signal-caller.
Watt turns 32 next month and is definitely closer to the end of his career than the beginning. Since winning his third NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 2015, he’s played a full 16 game season just twice. While his ability to break games is still there, injuries have clearly slowed him down.
At the end of the day though Watt is still a special player. Any team that signs him is going to be lucky to have him, the Cowboys just need to be careful and balance their true needs with their wants.
J.J. Watt’s career is ultimately going to end with a bust in Canton, Ohio and he still has the ability to make a massive impact on and off the field wherever he signs. There will surely be a bidding war for his services, but if the price is right the Dallas Cowboys should try and keep him in the state of Texas.