Rams are a good fit for J.J. Watt, but there are too many hurdles

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Cameron DaSilva
·4 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Rarely does a three-time Defensive Player of the Year become immediately available, but on Friday morning, one hit the free-agent market – and we’re not talking about Aaron Donald, of course.

The Texans are releasing J.J. Watt, a five-time Pro Bowler and the greatest player in the franchise’s history. It was a stunning move initially, as many expected the Texans to at least attempt to trade Watt. But It was the stud defensive end who requested his release, and Houston granted his wish.

The Rams are already stacked up front with Donald, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Michael Brockers, A’Shawn Robinson and Greg Gaines, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t call Watt’s agent and explore the possibility of signing him. In fact, all 31 teams not named the Texans should be discussing Watt as an addition to their defensive line because even though he’s toward the end of his career, he can help any team in the NFL.

With the Rams, it’s easy to see his fit. Watt would be an outstanding addition to the line next to Donald, who gets doubled more than any player in the NFL. Watt also drew a ton of double-teams in Houston, primarily because he didn’t have much help as far as rushing the passer goes; he led the Texans with five sacks in 2020.

If Watt were to join the Rams, he’d have ample one-on-one opportunities – likely even more than when the Texans had Jadeveon Clowney. He would play defensive end in the Rams’ base 3-4 structure, which is where Brockers currently lines up.

Which brings us to our first hurdle: If the Rams were to sign Watt, what would they do with Brockers? They could keep him on board and keep him in the defensive line rotation, including at nose tackle, but that wouldn’t be worth $9.8 million, which is his 2021 cap hit. Watt provides far more as a pass rusher than Brockers does and is still great against the run, so it would all but render Brockers a backup.

The Rams could cut him after June 1 to save $6.5 million, so that’s one way to get around that issue – though I’m not convinced they would treat him that way after giving him a three-year deal last offseason.

The next (and biggest hurdle) is surely the salary cap. As of now, the Rams will be at least $25 million over the salary cap when the new league year begins. They’re paying $42.2 million for Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford, which is a huge number and will take a large chunk out of the Rams’ allotted money.

Watt was set to make $17.5 million next season and clearly the Texans weren’t going to pay him that much. It’s highly unlikely any team will. The Rams certainly wouldn’t be able to pay him $17.5 million, if that’s what he’s trying to earn again. But if he wanted to take a discount, Los Angeles should be all ears.

It was only three years ago that they signed Ndamukong Suh to a one-year deal worth $14 million when it seemed like they wouldn’t have the money to land him. The Rams do have methods for clearing up a bunch of cap space, with five specific moves possibly freeing up $50 million. But they also have pending free agents they would like to bring back, such as Troy Hill, Leonard Floyd, John Johnson and Darious Williams.

Landing Watt would almost guarantee the Rams couldn’t bring back Floyd or Johnson, which they’re already unlikely to do. And if they were to sign Watt, they’d probably have to cut Brockers and possibly Robinson, which would free up a total of $10.25 million if made after June 1.

The Rams are unlikely to sign Watt, even as fun as it would be to see two three-time Defensive Player of the Year winners lining up on the same team. Watt would undoubtedly help Donald and the pass rush in a big way, and Donald would help Watt get more one-on-one chances to rush the passer.

It would be an even better tandem than Donald and Suh, but it’ll be even more difficult to make happen, given the Rams’ financial situation with the cap shrinking and a number of starters already hitting free agency.

There are other logical landing spots for Watt, too. He could return home to Wisconsin by joining the Packers. He could reunite with his brother T.J. in Pittsburgh. He could also chase a ring with the Buccaneers or sign with the Ravens, who will have much more cap space than the Rams.

Les Snead should never be counted out of any free-agent sweepstakes, but don’t hold your breath on the Rams signing Watt to pair with Donald.