New England Patriots

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

J.J. Watt is hitting the open market. The five-time All-Pro defensive lineman revealed in a new video on Friday that he asked the Texans to be released, and the two sides mutually agreed to part ways.

“The way that you guys have treated me – besides draft night, I mean you guys booed me on draft night – but every day after that, you treated me like family and I truly feel like youre my family,” Watt said, addressing Texans fans. “Since that day, I have tried to do everything in my power to earn your respect and try and make you proud on and off the field.”

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Texans “could have traded Watt for a solid draft pick,” but released him as a means of “handling their face of the franchise with class.” Doesn’t sound like the best asset management, but here we are.

Watt will now be available to the other 31 NFL teams for nothing more than money. And it shouldn’t be a lot of money, either. Watt may be a five-time All-Pro and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, but that won’t do him much good at the negotiating table.

Could JJ Watt possibly be interested in playing for Bill Belichick? (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY)

Could JJ Watt possibly be interested in playing for Bill Belichick? (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY)

He turns 32 in March and is coming off a season in which he posted “only” five sacks and 17 QB hits, despite starting all 16 games and leading the Texans defense in snaps (1,013). He’s also been inconsistent with his health from year-to-year. His games played the past four seasons: 16, 8, 16, 5. However, Watt does still pass the eye test. He batted seven balls at the line of scrimmage in 2020 and has long been more than just a pure pass-rusher. He may not be quite what he was in his prime, but he’s still very good.

The Patriots have sorely lacked an impact player like that since losing Trey Flowers. Watt would represent that kind of threat on a thin Patriots defensive line. But Bill Belichick would likely have to outbid everyone else for Watt’s services, especially if his goal is to join a contending team.

MORE: Why the Brady-Belichick debate is getting silly

So the Packers, Bucs, and Bills should be considered stronger contenders to sign Watt at this time. But we’ll see what happens. Watt will be one of the biggest names on the market.

You can get more of my thoughts on Watt as a potential Patriot, and the Patriots’ entire offseason, in the below podcast from SideLines featuring myself and Ty Anderson. Listen to the Pats offseason talk starting around the 47:39 mark.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.