The Houston Texans created a stir by granting J.J. Watt his release from the team, saving them millions against the salary cap while allowing the future Hall of Famer to decide where he’ll play next. And he’ll have his choice of teams. Should the New Orleans Saints make a run at signing him? Can they even afford it?
Yes, the Saints are currently about $72.3 million or so in the hole. But they don’t have to be cap-compliant until March 17, and they’ve already taken steps to create salary cap space so they can retool the roster for another playoffs run in 2021. Because Watt was released outright, he can be signed at any time, meaning the Saints could add him now and figure out the details later. But is it a route worth exploring, given the point he’s at in his career?
Watt is definitely trending downwards, which makes sense given his age (32) and injury history. Pro Football Focus charted him with two pressures or fewer in half the games he played in 2020. Despite that, he still produced 45 total pressures on the year, which would have ranked fourth-most for the Saints behind Cameron Jordan (61), Trey Hendrickson (50), and David Onyemata (49). And he remains a force in the run game.
As for his health: Watt missed eight games in 2019 after tearing a pectoral muscle, though he returned in time for the playoffs, and a 2016 back injury and a 2017 knee injury have remained points of concern among fans. He’s managed to play 16 full games in both 2018 and 2020 in spite of them, but it’s clear he isn’t the same player today that he was at his peak.
And he terrorized the Saints when he was at the height of his powers. His 2015 performance against them in a lopsided 24-6 win is some of the most impressive game tape you’ll ever see. He was unblockable off the left end spot, destroying right tackle Zach Strief and even shredding left tackle Terron Armstead when the Saints shifted him over in a double-team bid. Sean Payton has gone after players who have beaten him before, and it’s easy to see him taking a swing at the now-available Watt.
If the Saints lose Hendrickson in free agency, which is very possible, Watt could be a good addition. They can’t trust Marcus Davenport to suddenly hold down a starting job opposite Jordan, and the Saints like to rotate guys in and out often anyway. With Hendrickson out of the picture, the next-man-up behind Jordan and Davenport is former undrafted rookie Carl Granderson. There would be plenty of snaps available for Watt if he’s interested in signing with New Orleans (and at a reasonable price).
However, this is probably a situation the Saints should stay out of. Watt’s production isn’t likely to match his price point, and New Orleans has enough pending free agents to worry about before they should start looking for additions. Bringing in someone with Watt’s resume would certainly be exciting, and it’s not something we should rule out without much thought. Payton has targeted past-their-prime players like him before in Adrian Peterson and Champ Bailey. But given the money involved and the state of their roster, the Saints would be better served trying their luck elsewhere.
Which Saints should be untouchable in 2021 cap cuts, trade talks?
Published: 2021-02-14 19:39:03
Tags: #Saints #enter #Watt #free #agency #sweepstakes