Panthers potential 2021 free agent targets: DL J.J. Watt

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Tim Weaver
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Houston has a problem. Every player who’s any good doesn’t want to play for them anymore. As of yet, Deshaun Watson has not forced a trade, but another big name just became available. The Texans have released superstar defensive lineman J.J. Watt, adding a future Hall of Famer to the pool of free agents for 2021.

The Panthers already have a solid defensive line, but there should always be room for a talent like Watt. Here’s why he might fit.

Pros

Before Aaron Donald came along, Watt was the top defensive performer in the league, hands down. He’s earned three Defensive Player of the Year awards, five Pro Bowl nominations, five first-team All Pro nods and eight appearances on the NFL top 100 list, peaking at No. 1 in 2015.

Watt is a world-wrecking pass rusher, having totaled 101 sacks and 282 quarterback hits in 128 games. He’s also a dominant run stopper (172 career tackles for a loss) who can line up at any position along the defensive line and command a double team, opening up penetration opportunities for his teammates. For a promising young Panthers unit, that could act as a force multiplier and elevate everyone’s game, especially EDGE Brian Burns.

Cons

Watt (31) will be worth whatever he gets on the open market, so the price tag is not worth debating even if it’s going to sound exorbitantly expensive. The question with Watt is his health. He missed most of 2016-2017 and half of 2019 with a variety of fairly-serious injuries. Another one could end Watt’s career prematurely.

Conclusion

When a defender like Watt becomes available, every team who didn’t play in the Super Bowl should consider signing him. Tampa just won the big game thanks largely to a relentless pass rush, and adding a monster like Watt would at least bring Carolina’s defensive line a lot closer to competing with the champs.

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