While the Pittsburgh Steelers remain the odds-on favorites to land former Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt, according to most sportsbooks, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, Watt is seriously considering signing with the Steelers’ oldest rivals.
Watt, who requested his release from Houston and had that wish granted on Friday, sees the Browns as a strong fit because of their salary cap room and postseason potential, sources told Cabot.
The 31-year-old three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year is an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career and thus could likely demand a top-tier contract.
The Browns have just over $15 million of salary cap space entering the 2021 offseason, based on a $180 million cap, and could get more with a trade of disgruntled wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. Even as things stand, the Browns have the 10th-most salary cap space of any team for 2021.
The Steelers do not have that kind of flexibility, as they are approximately $24 million in the red with one month to go until the start of the new league year. But they can offer Watt the opportunity to play with brothers T.J. and Derek, something no other team can.
While the new league year does not begin until March 17, because Watt was released by the Texans, he can sign at any time. Any move the Steelers make would almost definitely need to wait until the team achieves certainty regarding the situation with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.