CINCINNATI — The Bengals' three biggest needs going into this offseason are offensive line, defensive line and wide receiver.
They're expected to keep defensive end Carl Lawson around for at least one more season, but they need to do more than that if they want to have a quality pass rush in 2021.
When five-time All-Pro J.J. Watt was released by the Texans and became a free agent earlier this month, most fanbases wondered if he would be a good fit with their favorite team?
Cincinnati is an unlikely destination for Watt, but for the first time since he became available we know what it could cost to sign the 32-year-old.
The best offer Watt's received is in the $15-$16 million range according to ESPN's Diana Russini. There are several teams interested in his services.
Watt appeared in all 16 games in 2020, finishing with 52 tackles, five sacks and 17 quarterback hits. He was the seventh highest graded edge defender according to Pro Football Focus (85.5).
The Bengals have the cap space to pay Watt, keep Lawson and still add to their team when free agency opens.
They'll have anywhere from $40-$45 million in space. They could also move on from veterans like Geno Atkins, Bobby Hart and BJ Finney to give themselves another $17 million in room.
Signing Watt would give the Bengals' pass rush a huge boost and they can make the money work, but there are two issues with a potential deal.
First, he wants to play for a team that has a chance to win. The Bengals have won six games in the past two seasons. Why would he sign in Cincinnati—even if they do have some talent on the roster—if he has the option to go to a true contender?
And the second issue has to do with the Bengals. Is it worth it to pay Watt a bunch of money when the team desperately needs offensive line help? Shouldn't they take that $16-$18 million that they would have to offer him and throw it at 49ers left tackle Trent Williams?
Signing two quality offensive linemen in free agency has to be a priority. They could still keep Lawson, sign Watt and upgrade the offensive line, but that could mean then end of William Jackson III's time in Cincinnati.
It's still unlikely, but at least the Bengals and the rest of the league knows what it could take to sign the former Texans star.
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