Seattle Seahawks should monitor J.J. Watt in free agency

Seattle Seahawks
AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt leaves the field after a losing an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Houston. The Bengals won 37-31.

SEATTLE, Wash. — Now an unrestricted free-agent looking for his next home, three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt is drawing a ton of attention. Despite being 31-years-old with a long and treacherous injury history, the NFL is on notice now that the future Hall of Famer is on the open market. If they play their cards right, the Seattle Seahawks could make a play at one of the biggest names in the 2021 free-agent market.

Prior to the 2020-21 NFL season, Watt played only 32 games in four seasons for the Houston Texans. This would be enough to scare off many teams if not for his immense talent and immeasurable leadership qualities. Despite his limited playing time in prior seasons, Watt has finished top-10 in Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranking at his position during every eligible season of his career.

That includes his most recent season, in which Watt corralled 40 solo tackles, which is tied for the fifth-best mark in the entire NFL. Ranked the 20th best free agent by PFF, Watt would make an excellent addition to a Seattle Seahawks team hoping to re-establish a defensive identity with a new core in place.

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Watt finished his season with 17 quarterback hits and 14 tackles for loss during the 2020 NFL season. These marks would lead the Seattle Seahawks during their most recent season.

Though he may not be the peak J.J. Watt that NFL fans remember, Watt remains a high-character athlete who leaves it all on the field. Playing for the third-worst team in the AFC, Watt left everything he had on the field last season before agreeing to part ways with the organization that drafted him 11th overall in 2011.

The Seattle Seahawks are operating without a ton of wiggle room in terms of cap space, but there is some allure to playing for the Seahawks. One of the league’s more progressive franchises, the Seahawks have championship pedigree and enough talent locked in for next season to compete for a Super Bowl trophy. With reigning Walter Payton Man of the Year, Russell Wilson under center, the offense is likely to rank amongst the best in the NFL once more. Securing that championship-caliber defense is the next key to bringing Seattle back into Super Bowl contention seven seasons after their last appearance in the big game.

Of course, there are other free agency decisions to consider as well. Cornerback Shaquill Griffin, running back Chris Carson, linebacker K.J. Wright and cornerback Quinton Dunbar are all free agents for the Seahawks to consider paying. There’s also no telling what the market will be like for Watt with a heap of teams reportedly showing interest in signing the five-time Pro Bowler.

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Creating the money to acquire a player of Watt’s caliber will take some sacrifice, so not all of those players may return if Watt is brought in. However, adding a centerpiece like Watt to the Seahawks’ defensive line will put pressure on opposing quarterbacks that hasn’t been felt since the peak performances of the Legion of Boom.

One way to create the cap space necessary to sign Watt is to part with Carlos Dunlap, who essentially fills the same role for Seattle that Watt would take up next season. Though Dunlap was easily one of the most productive players on the Seahawks in his eight games with the team last year, that role may be filled better by someone of Watt’s stature in the NFL landscape.

By trading for star safety Jamal Adams ahead of the 2020 NFL season, the Seattle Seahawks reaffirmed their commitment to winning. This falls in line with the same mentality, which may be needed more than ever with Wilson putting pressure on the front office to help construct a championship contender.

Is Watt the answer to all of the Seahawks’ problems? Probably not, but he’ll certainly set the tone for his teammates and strike fear in the eyes of the NFC West’s carousel of quarterbacks.

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