J.J. Watt has surprisingly hit the free agency market, and the Miami Dolphins should be on the phone to him at the earliest opportunity.
The 31-year-old defensive end has been one of the greatest players in the NFL since being drafted 11th overall by the Houston Texans in the 2011 Draft.
Since being selected out of the University of Wisconsin, Watt has been named a five-time Pro Bowler, a five-time All-Pro, and was Defensive Player of the Year an astonishing three times, in 2012, 2014, and 2015.
For his play on the field and his charity and volunteer work, Watt was even named the 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.
In 128 regular-season games with the Texans, Watt has racked up 101 sacks, 531 total tackles (409 solo), 172 tackles for loss, 282 QB hits, and even two interceptions; both of which were returned for touchdowns, including an 80-yard return against the Buffalo Bills back in 2014.
Watt posted a video to his Twitter account to announce the decision to mutually part ways with the Texans and hit the open market, alerting 31 teams around the league that he is available and ready to take on a new challenge in his life.
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In doing so, Watt gave up $17.5 million in salary that he would have earned with the Texans in 2021, and likely will not be able to command from any other team in the league, given his age and career trajectory.
One team that is well placed to offer him a contract of commensurate value and potentially be one of the best places for Watt to succeed and return to the form that saw him named a Pro Bowler and All-Pro back in 2018 are the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins under head coach Brian Flores are a defense-first team, with their current group viewed as the best in the league for large portions of the 2020 season, seeing the likes of Emmanuel Ogbah, Jerome Baker and Kyle Van Noy help guide the team to an impressive 10-6 record after finishing just 5-11 the year before.
Miami is a team expected to make the next jump in 2021, pushing themselves into the playoffs in a more convincing way and begin to challenge the Buffalo Bills for the coveted AFC East title, and Watt would be the perfect addition to the team for that.
While he is no longer the player that put up 20.5 sacks twice in his career, Watt still has plenty left in the tank and would bring with him strong leadership and the kind of determined, positive character that Flores is known to prefer in his players.
Having depth at key positions is something the Miami Dolphins need, with an injury-riddled defense struggling mightily against the Bills in the last game of what had been an exceptional season.
Bringing in Watt would give the team plenty of firepower upfront, making their defense instantly improved and far more deadly and difficult for opposition teams to plan for, with Zach Sieler, Christian Wilkins and even Shaq Lawson capable of rotating out on the edge.
The Dolphins have just shy of $32 million in cap space this off-season, and the team will be looking to spend, with very few key outgoing players allowing them to focus on building rather than replacing.
With the Dolphins currently possessing the Texans’ immediate future with their first and second-round picks, landing Watt, who has been the team’s best player of the past decade, would also be a unique irony.
The Miami Dolphins are a team on the rise and looked to be poised to be very competitive over the next few years, and with Watt likely looking to join that type of team, then Flores and general manager Chris Grier should get onto the phone with him as soon as possible.