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You Can't Always Get WATT You Want

“But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”

The Rolling Stones weren’t referring to Bill Belichick’s rebuilding efforts in Foxboro and they also weren’t talking about the Canton bound edge rusher that blasted off from Houston last week.

Upon the news of JJ Watt’s release by the Texans, media around New England launched 1000’s of stories to the tune of “Would Watt be a fit in Foxboro?” (It is our first glimpse of being “just another franchise” as I’m sure every NFL market from Jacksonville to Cincinnati had similar articles go up. Likely with equal odds to the Patriots of landing the 2-time Defensive Player of the Year.)

Would Bill Belichick work well with JJ Watt? Of course. Watt would line up on the opposite side of Chase Winovich and represent the Patriots best pass rushing tandem since Chris Long and Trey Flowers in 2016? Definitely. In fact, Watt and Wino could be a buddy cop movie: Watt is the creaky veteran who is getting too old for this. Wino the young kid with the long flowing hair who is always getting them in trouble with their legendary coach. It’s like Starsky and Hutch but with norse pass rushers instead of two fellas tooling around in a red Barracuda. (Actually, they might do that too.)

JJ Watt in New England would be a lot of fun. Ever since Chandler Jones left, the Patriots haven’t had a pin-your-ears-back edge rusher type, that is so en vogue in the rest of the league. Plus, the 5-time All-Pro could be a veteran presence on a defense that might badly need one if Dont’a Hightower decides to retire. But is the soon to be 32-year old pass rusher what the Patriots NEED?

Sadly no. Schematically, Watt doesn’t fit what the Patriots do. One of the reasons that the Patriots never have a defensive end that threatens 20-sacks in a season is that’s simply not what Bill Belichick values. Trey Flowers might be the prototype defensive end in Bill Belichick’s defense: long arms, big hands, strong, can pressure the quarterback but above all else: SETS THE EDGE. Setting the edge, play in and play out for a reasonable salary, is the way to Bill Belichick’s heart. Not big sexy sack totals.

From talking to those in the league on the defensive side of the ball, JJ Watt has the reputation the equivalent of a gunslinger. In the name of making a play, Watt will sort of do his own thing; He will (gulp) improvise. And that improvisation can be great. Batting down passes, freakish one handed interceptions and 101 sacks in 10 years can have an incredible impact on a defense.

But for the coach whose mantra is “Do Your Job”, that might not be a match made in heaven. Add in fact, Watt has only had double digit sacks once since 2015 and only two healthy seasons in that time. Watt doesn’t represent great value, especially to a team that needs multiple pieces on each side of the ball to improve on a 7-9 record in 2020.

Does that mean that Watt unequivocally will not be a New England Patriot? No. If Watt’s recent medical history and high price tag scare off enough teams, I could certainly see the Patriots swoop in late and get Watt on a team friendly deal, one -year deal. I don’t see it getting to that point, someone (probably Pittsburgh) will come in over the top and win the off season by signing JJ Watt. However, we also didn’t see Cam Newton languishing on the free agent market last year until July 8th, did we?

The dream of Jumpin JJ Flash might be Shattered, but this won’t be The Last Time, the Patriots have a chance to add an impact player this off season. (But it may be the last time, I don’t know.)

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