J.J. Watt is now a free agent.
The Texans star defensive end had requested his release and the team granted that wish on Friday morning.
Watt is a five-time All-Pro with 101 career sacks. His four-year stretch from 2012-15 was among the most dominant in NFL history with 69 sacks, 190 quarterback hits and 119 tackles for loss. He won Defensive Player of the Year three times in that span.
Now his NFL career will continue elsewhere, and he is able to sign with a new team immediately. Watt will be 32 in March and next season will be his 11th. Watt should still have a few years of quality football left in him even if he is no longer the dominant player he used to be. Injuries have long been a bugaboo for Watt, though he did play in all 16 games in 2020. Watt posted just 5.0 sacks last season, but much of that is likely attributed to Houston's putrid defense.
So now for the moral of this story, what are the odds Seattle lands the future Hall of Famer? In short, slim to none. Watt was scheduled to make $17 million in 2021, and while a new contract will likely be for less, it will still likely be too rich for the cap-strained Seahawks.
According to Over the Cap, Seattle has just shy of $5 million dollars in cap space. That likely won't keep John Schneider from picking up the phone given the team's "always compete" mantra. There are always ways to create space and extending guys like Jamal Adams, Carlos Dunlap and Tyler Lockett would be good places to start. Seattle could also approach Russell Wilson and Duane Brown about restructuring their deals.
The most realistic scenario would be to cut Carlos Dunlap and his $14 million cap number in order to make room for Watt. Seattle could do so without incurring a single dollar of dead cap space. However, after how well Dunlap played for the Seahawks in the second half of last season, such a move wouldn't necessarily be a definitive upgrade.
Seattle's biggest hurdle isn't that they couldn't find a way to afford Watt, it's that the team has other notable holes to fill. Wilson publicly aired his frustrations about the Seahawks meager investment on the offensive line. A new left guard and a new center are top offseason priorities for Seattle. The Seahawks also need a new running back, a third wideout and a corner.
It's hard to imagine Seattle being able to appease Wilson while also winning a bidding war for Watt. Regardless, it will be fascinating to see where Watt picks as his next destination.