The Minnesota Vikings had a tough time on the defensive line in 2020. There are many reasons for these struggles, some of which are persuasive and legitimate. Be that as it may, the Minnesota Vikings desperately need to improve their d-line, which is where J.J. Watt factors into the equation. I sent an email to Tim from Battle Red Blog, one of the leading Houston Texans sites. He was gracious enough to answer my questions about a potential Watt trade.
J.J. Watt and the Minnesota Vikings
It seems very likely that J.J. Watt will be available in a trade. The Texans, like the Vikings, have had a disappointing 2020. Bill O’Brien left this team in shambles, and it’s now clear that Houston needs to reset as they build around Deshaun Watson. As a result, the prospect of moving on from Watt ought to be at the forefront of Houston’s mind.
According to Over the Cap, Watt is entering the final year of his contract. He will make $17.5 million, none of which is guaranteed. The Texans could cut him and save all of this money (they’re currently $13.5 million over next year’s projected Covid Cap), but why not look for a trade? In all likelihood, Houston’s rebuild is going to take longer than Watt has left in the NFL. Moving Watt could be great for both him personally and the franchise.
For these reasons, I emailed Battle Red Blog and asked about how plausible it was to see a Watt trade. Here is the first part of Tim’s response: “It’s a great question with no real answer. If J.J. Watt wants out of Houston, I believe the Texans will do everything in their power to make it happen…assuming they can get a solid asset back in return. I cannot imagine they’d trade a franchise icon for less than a third round pick, but I also can’t fathom J.J. nets a first rounder in trade at this point of his career either. My guess is that a second-rounder gets the Vikings (or another team) J.J. Watt if he wants to play elsewhere, and it might get done for a third. Anything less than that, and I don’t think the Texans would believe it was a sufficient yield.”
Tim makes several great points here. A trade needs to be worth it for Houston, which likely means at least a third (but potentially more). In my mind, it wouldn’t be at all shocking to see the Texans get more than a third since pretty much every NFL team wants Watt on their roster. A first does seem unlikely, though. Watt is 31 and has had several significant injuries. He is a Hall of Fame player, but there is still plenty of risk.
How would Watt feel about a trade? I’ll defer to Tim: “But does J.J. really want to leave Houston? He’s been more publicly frustrated and critical of the organization and his teammates this year than ever before, and he knows he’s on the backside of his career. Given the current state of the Texans, it’s entirely logical that he’d want to play somewhere else, somewhere he could have a better chance to win a ring. Then again, J.J. has embraced Houston like few, if any, other athletes before him. He is revered here. Is he willing to potentially weaken that relationship with a fan base that worships him? He’s the only one who knows the answer to that question.”
Tim, like myself, doesn’t have access to Watt’s mind. Perhaps the biggest takeaway rests in the potential for Watt wanting to maximize his chances of winning a Super Bowl “on the backside of his career.” No one can question Watt’s commitment to the game and desire to be great. If he wants to win a Super Bowl – he does – then he almost certainly needs to play for a team other than the Texans. Watson may get the Texans to the promised land, but it’s unlikely to take place within Watt’s career.
Rick Spielman is no stranger to making big moves. He pulled off a huge trade for Yannick Ngakoue just before the season. True, it didn’t work out, but it nevertheless demonstrates that Spielman isn’t shy about pulling the trigger. Just take a look at the Stefon Diggs or Sam Bradford trades if you need more evidence for Spielman’s willingness to make a move.
An obvious obstacle rests in Watt’s contract. However, the Vikings have several options available to them when it comes to creating cap space. Moreover, a trade for Watt – especially if it involves parting with one of Spielman’s coveted draft picks – will likely involve an extension. Would Watt agree to a two or three year deal, one that involves more guaranteed money and some incentives? It’s impossible to say. Nevertheless, it’s pretty common for players to seek guaranteed money, especially as their careers near their conclusion.
The Minnesota Vikings have given their Leadership Trinity a clear window to compete, and adding J.J. Watt would represent a huge boost to their chances.
Editor’s Note: The quotes from Tim’s email have been published with his permission. TVG would like to extend a sincere thanks to Battle Red Blog for their insight. Be sure to swing by their site and give them a follow on Twitter.