It’s now been about two weeks since five-time All-Pro, future Pro Football Hall Of Fame talent, Pewaukee native, former Badgers great, ex-Saturday Night Live host, and otherworldly defensive end J.J. Watt was granted his release by the unabashedly rebuilding Houston Texans. Since the moment the veteran was granted his freedom from the perennially underperforming franchise, respected sports writers, armchair GMs, and everyone in between have all wondered and speculated where Watt will wind up.
Of course, one of the most rumored destinations for the Wisconsin-born star is Green Bay. In recent days, Packers faithful have dug up old interviews where Watt talked about the honor of playing at Lambeau Field, they’ve tracked flights from Waukesha to Green Bay, they’ve combed through every one of the player’s new social media posts in search of clues or hidden meaning, and they’ve speculated whether other Packers roster moves were done in an effort to free up salary cap space for the hometown hero.
Though Watt himself just said he’ll need some time to figure out his next destination, it would behoove him—a player who was released and, as a result, is able to sign a contract at any point—to ink a deal before the NFL free agency begins for other unsigned players on March 17. An official decision is likely to be made soon. In the meantime, we’ve come up with five reasons J.J. Watt WILL ABSOLUTELY AND WITHOUT A DOUBT BECOME A MEMBER OF THE GREEN BAY PACKERS…and, uh, five reasons why he might not.
5 totally realistic reasons he signs
1. He’s from Wisconsin, after all
Did you know Watt grew up in Wisconsin? We mentioned that earlier in the article, but in case you forgot or if this fun little tidbit escaped you for the past decade or so, allow us to remind you that, yes, he grew up in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. He attended University of Wisconsin and played with the Badgers. He still has a home in the state. Not enough people talk about this stuff. Well, now you know.
2. He reportedly was a “diehard Packers fan”
The only thing better than being a beloved and handsomely compensated professional athlete would be the ability to be a rich, famous, and internationally known athlete who gets to play for the team you grew up watching. At this point in his career, why wouldn’t Watt want to come home and try to help bring his favorite team to another Super Bowl? And we know it’s a business above all else, but even if he doesn’t wind up in Green Bay, no amount of money would be worth him signing with Chicago.
3. Green Bay is already a legitimate Super Bowl contender
The Packers (once again!) came just one game from reaching the Super Bowl this past season. The team has Aaron Rodgers—who is coming off an MVP season and arguably the best year of his career—and Davante Adams on offense, an already formidable defensive line, and is one of the NFC’s only legitimate contenders. Despite all his accolades, awards, and personal accomplishments over the course of his 10-year career, a Super Bowl has always been out of Watt’s grasp in Houston. This season could be his best (and possibly his last) chance to get a ring before he calls it a career.
4. Think of the endorsement money!
One major hurdle standing in the way of Watt coming to Titletown is money. The Packers have very little in the way of salary cap space and a few other holes on its roster (more on those things later), but all of the salary he’d be sacrificing to sign for a hometown discount would surely be made up for with endorsement money. Watt is already one of the league’s most marketable players and, in spite of being the NFL’s smallest market, Green Bay is on a short list of professional football’s most popular teams. Put those things together and that’s a license to print money. And that’s not even factoring in the possibility of a Rodgers-Watt commercial combo. With all due respect to Buffalo or Tennessee (two other teams rumored to be in consideration for his services), Watt in Bills or Titans colors doesn’t have the same value.
Already a no-doubt Hall Of Famer who is wealthier and more famous than he could ever have imagined, there’s not much left for Watt to do. However, there are circumstances that could allow this legendary player, respected humanitarian, and noted pop culture figure to be a name that’s remembered (even more) fondly forever. If he came home at a (slight) discount to get the Packers over the hump and bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Green Bay, Watt would never be forgotten. He’d never have to buy a beer in the state ever again. He’d be the top-selling jersey in 2021. And he’d forever be a part of the state’s sports identity. Or he could be that guy from Pewaukee, Wisconsin who was great for the Texans who got to host a game show and be in Subway ads.
5 logical reasons he goes elsewhere
1. The Packers might have other priorities
As much as some fans would like Watt to sign with Green Bay and as appealing as the prospect might even be to Watt as well, there is a chance the Packers organization has other free agent priorities instead. With limited cap space and lots of holes to address on the roster, it’s possible Green Bay decides to bypass a deal with Watt in favor of re-signing Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Kevin King or Corey Linsley. The Packers might consider bringing in a cornerback or wide receiver via free agency instead of bolstering its already solid front four on defense.
2. Watt might not be worth the asking price
Depending on what he’s looking to be paid, it’s also possible that—even with the nice story line and the great Wisconsin connection—Watt simply isn’t worth the asking price. The veteran will be 32 years old this season, is coming off one of his least accomplished (full) seasons of his career, and has a history of serious injuries. The long-term risks and ramifications of signing Watt might outweigh the fact that it would be cool as hell right now.
3. This will probably be Watt’s last chance to break the bank
As a 10-year veteran who is about to turn 32, it’s safe to assume this will probably be Watt’s last “big” contract. Though it would be neat if he’d throw caution to the wind to ink a team-friendly one- or two-year deal to see what happens in Green Bay, he’s far more likely to be seeking a four- or five-year agreement to potentially be his final contract. Football is a sport where careers often end without notice, so we wouldn’t blame Watt for wanting some extra security as his NFL window is now starting to close.
4. Maybe he wants to play with his brothers
If there’s anything that’s more important than local pride, it’s a familial bond. It just so happens that two members of Watt’s family (brothers Derek and T.J.) both play for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Between the sibling connection AND the fact Pittsburgh is a good team who won the AFC North last season and that has one of the league’s most passionate fanbases, don’t rule the Steelers out.
5. He possesses free will
Each of the other reasons we’ve given so far are less meaningful than this one. People can project, speculate, and crunch numbers all they want, but at the end of the day, J.J. Watt is a person who possesses free will. After a great career, he finds himself in the rare position to be able to choose where he’d like to play, how long he’d like to play there, and how much money he will be paid to do so. No matter what points other people can make to build or to dismantle the case for him coming to Green Bay, they all amount to nothing if he doesn’t want to play for the Packers. And he absolutely has the right to make any decision he wants to. But please don’t go to Chicago, Watt!