GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers reportedly are among the trimmed-down list of contenders to sign former All-Pro J.J. Watt.
According to NFL insider John Clayton, the Packers, Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans are the front-runners, with the Las Vegas Raiders a possibility.
Watt was released by the Houston Texans on Feb. 12. ESPN.com’s Ed Werder reported “approximately a dozen teams” were interested in Watt, and Packer Central reported the Packers were among those teams.
A source from one of those dozen teams did not know the Packers’ standing but did say Watt and agent Tom Condon have narrowed their focus.
While Watt was in no rush to find a new team after spending 10 years in Houston, the longer his free agency lingered, presumably the better the chances for cap-strapped teams such as the Packers to be competitive. While Watt wants to win, league sources believed Watt didn’t want to miss out on too much money after giving up the $17.5 million owed to him in 2021 by the Texans.
“He’s not in a hurry because he’s not getting the offers he wants,” a source said earlier in the week.
It’s interesting that none of the contenders listed by Clayton have cap space. The Packers are $11.45 million over the cap but have room to maneuver with a potential Aaron Rodgers renegotiation and Davante Adams extension. The Buffalo Bills are $1.01 million over the cap, the Titans are $2.2 million over the cap and the Raiders are $18.9 million over the cap, according to OverTheCap.com.
Watt’s interest in Green Bay is obvious. First of all, he’s from Pewaukee, Wis., and played at the University of Wisconsin. Second, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have a chance to get what Watt craves, and that’s a championship. He’s been to the playoffs five times but never advanced to a conference championship game. And third, as Werder reported, Watt doesn’t want to be the main man on defense. In Green Bay, Za’Darius Smith, Kenny Clark and Jaire Alexander are Pro Bowl players.
The Packers’ interest is obvious, too. After falling a step short of the Super Bowl the past two seasons, Watt could be the missing piece on a defense that will be led by new coordinator Joe Barry.
Watt’s return to Green Bay for the joint practices between the Packers and Texans in 2019 was admittedly “emotional,” he said at the time while looking ahead to the training camp tradition of riding a bike to practice.
“I'm very excited about that,” Watt said. “As a kid, I went to Green Bay Packers training camp and I watched the kids ride the bikes. I stood outside in the parking lot asking for autographs, and I watched them throw balls and play and practice football for a living. I looked through that fence, and I thought that was the coolest job in the whole world.
“So, for me to be able to go up there and for them to let us ride the bikes … literally — not figuratively — literally live a dream that I had as a kid … I don’t have a ton of emotional moments in my career, (but) that’s going to be an emotional one. That’s going to be really cool.”