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J.J. Watt said to be looking for “market value” contract

No discount might mean no J.J. for the Rams

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

My fantasy of J.J. Watt teaming up with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey might have been over before it started. Though I think it is undeniable that the Rams fit three important criteria for Watt — Super Bowl contenders, strong supporting cast, positive environment — if he wants to be paid what he’s worth, then LA might not even get the chance to bow out.

A report from Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot on Tuesday claims that Watt is “seriously considering” the Browns because they might be able to fill all four of those needs. Including being able to pay Watt whatever he wants since Cleveland is 10th in 2021 cap space at the moment, with more room probably coming after some restructures or releases.

Released by the Texans on Friday, Watt is seriously considering the Browns as one of his options because they have a lot of what he wants, sources tell cleveland.com.

The two biggest things? Money and a potential Super Bowl. What’s more, they have a strong supporting cast and a positive environment. Check, check, check, and check.

It’s hard to deny that the Browns are one of the most intriguing teams to watch develop, but will Watt overlook the reason that Cleveland has so many outsider fans? That reason being that they have been the laughingstock of the league for the last three decades and now because the Browns reached the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and won a playoff game for the first time since 1994, it’s possible that some are overlooking their faults because they desperately want to see a loser become a winner.

Faults such as: the Cleveland Browns were outscored by 11 points in 2020. The full season results were actually not remarkably different from the 2018 season in which Hue Jackson was fired and replaced by Gregg Williams midseason. The Browns featured a defense that was below average in nearly every respect and ranked 25th in DVOA. Apart from Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon (free agent and recently torn Achilles), Sheldon Richardson (cap casualty candidate), and Denzel Ward, I’m not sure how fantastic this supporting cast really is.

Is Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward as attractive of a supporting cast as Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey? Maybe for some people it would be.

It’s not that I would be completely shocked if Cleveland’s roster took a step forward and made it out of the AFC’s gauntlet next year to make the Super Bowl (the Browns were a tiebreak short of being in third place in the AFC North and a loss away from missing the playoffs) but surely we should all be hoarding some surprise in our reserves if THE BROWNS make the Super Bowl in 2021.

First they have to avoid imploding. Second, they have to score more points than they allow for the first time since 2007. Third, they have to beat the Ravens and Steelers for the AFC North. Fourth, navigate through the Chiefs, Titans, Colts, Bills, Dolphins, or potentially Patriots, Raiders, Chargers, Broncos ...

The Rams have a much clearer path to the Super Bowl, in my opinion. But it’s undeniable that they would have to get very lucky if they wanted to make Watt a competitive financial offer as compared to the other teams vying for his remaining time in the league. Watt was scheduled to make $17 million in 2021 and he may well top that if he chooses a team like the Browns.

When LA restructures Donald and Ramsey to free up cap space (and then they could also do that with Robert Woods, which might be one reason they extended him last September), money won’t seem like so much of an issue. But if money is a key component of any deal for Watt — which is completely fair of course — then the Rams might not be a real contender.

Even if they are more of a real contender.