Three-time Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt was surprisingly let go by the Houston Texans Friday, ending his decade-long tenure with the team that drafted him 11th overall in 2011. A shoo-in Hall-of-Famer with 101 sacks to his NFL credit (second among active players), Watt shouldn’t be on the market long as upwards of a dozen teams—the Bills, Browns, Steelers and Titans among them—have already emerged as potential suitors for the 31-year-old. Interested fan bases have predictably rolled out the red carpet for Watt, hoping to entice him by flooding his charity, the JJ Watt Foundation, with $99 donations, a nod to his longtime uniform number.
Watt seemed to appreciate the “bribes,” expressing his gratitude on Twitter.
Well-known for his impact on the community, the veteran pass-rusher was awarded the NFL’s prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year distinction in 2017 for helping raise nearly $40 million for victims of Hurricane Harvey. Sports Illustrated also named Watt their Sportsman of the Year for rallying Houston in the wake of one of the most destructive natural disasters in US history.
The influx of donations to Watt’s charity is reminiscent of a phenomenon we saw last month when Bills fans raised nearly a half-million dollars in support of Blessings in a Backpack, the preferred charity of former NFL MVP Lamar Jackson. At the time, Buffalo had just eliminated Jackson’s Ravens from the postseason. Bills Mafia orchestrated a similar movement in 2018, pouring money into Andy Dalton’s foundation after the Bengals quarterback led a late comeback to stun Baltimore in Week 17, allowing Buffalo to clinch its first playoff berth in 18 years.
Watt will have plenty of options to choose from in free agency, though his brothers TJ and Derek Watt, both members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, are already clamoring for their big bro to join them in the Steel City. While it would be a difficult maneuver to pull off—the cash-strapped Steelers are currently $30.6 million over the cap—it would be fascinating to see all three Watts under one roof.