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J.J. Watt’s future, Bucs celebrate, more from around the NFL

Nick Falato reviews what’s been happening around the league

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

The first week without the NFL ... how fun? But as the great Chuck Berry sang, C’est La vie. The conclusion of the 2020 season marks the near commencement of 2021. Free agency and the draft are looming in the coming months. In the meantime, let’s see some of the more notable news stories from the week.

J.J. Watt

One of the more dominant defensive players of the era was released by the Houston Texans last week. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year is now free to join a team of his choosing. I would love for Watt to join the Giants, even in his elder age. Health issues have plagued Watt through the last few seasons, but he played a full 16-game season in 2020.

Watt is coming off a 45-pressure, 5-sack, season, according to Pro Football Focus. He just turned 32 years old and is looking to join a title contender. The Pittsburgh Steelers make sense since both his brothers (T.J. and Derek) played there last season. However, the current Steelers have some question marks at long-term quarterback and offensive line, especially since center Maurkice Pouncey announced his retirement last week (brother Mike of the Chargers also retired).

Teams like the Cleveland Browns and the Buffalo Bills are reportedly interested as well; the latter makes some sense for sure, but two other teams come to mind for Watt’s possible landing spot. The Green Bay Packers make a lot of sense; Watt is from Wisconsin, was a Badger, and they’re a contender with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Not to mention ... that defense could use Watt’s two-way ability to stop the run and rushing the passer.

The other team that makes sense is the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Watt has made so much money over the years - he’s looking to win. Who better to join than Tom Brady? The Buccaneers may have to let EDGE rusher Shaq Barrett walk in free agency, so they’ll need a rusher opposite of Jason Pierre-Paul. I think that destination, in Todd Bowles’ defense, makes sense.

Watt’s landing spot, and the eventual outcome from the DeShaun Watson situation, will be monitored intently as we all wait to see what happens. 2011-2015 J.J. Watt was something special; his 2018 season was ridiculous as well, but he still has good football to play. In the right system he could be a valuable addition to any Super Bowl competing team.

The Buccaneers celebrate

What better way to celebrate than to take to the seas with a boat parade. The moniker Buccaneer never fit so well. There weren’t cannons on the open sea of the Hillsborough River, but there were a bunch of people living their best life.

Seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady enjoyed his avocado tequila and let loose. Avast Ye! Brady cried (he didn’t say that), as he tossed the Lombardi Trophy over about 8 yards of water to tight end Cameron Brate. A few days after the boat parade, Brady received minor clean-up surgery on his knee.

Brate stated that he would have retired if he failed to catch the trophy. That may be how Scottie Miller felt when he accidentally backed into Chris Godwin’s phone and knocked it overboard and into the water. I doubt Godwin cared too much about the phone. It was a celebration. It was a Super Bowl celebration - and he’s a champion who is about to get paid.

Other news

The Eagles hired former Chargers offensive coordinator Shane Steichen to execute that same role for Nick Sirianni’s staff. Steichen helped develop and call plays for Justin Herbert last season. The Chargers ranked 18th in points per game, 18th in rushing yards per game, and sixth in passing yards per game. Steichen had been with the Chargers since 2014 and started calling plays in 2019.

In other coaching news, former Packers’ defensive coordinator was hired as senior defensive assistant by the Bears. Safeties coach Sean Desai has become Bears’ defensive coordinator in the wake of Chuck Pagano’s retirement.

The top-rated quarterback out of Clemson Trevor Lawrence had his pro day two weeks before the scheduled Clemson pro day. He threw in front of several NFL teams and reportedly looked good doing so. Lawrence is scheduled to have surgery on his non-throwing shoulder; to be ready for OTAs and rookie mini-camp, Clemson had a pro day just for him last week. Nothing he did or didn’t do should alter his rightful spot at the top of the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Saints released veteran guard Nick Eason and freed up $6 million in cap space. I only bring this up because it may be a bit of foreshadowing with Kevin Zeitler’s situation with the Giants. Zeitler is on his last year and cutting him would result in an extra $12 million in 2021 cap space. Veteran players on deals similar to this may be casualties due to the cap dropping by around $18 million (estimated) from last season.

Zeitler is a valuable asset on the Giants line, and I don’t want the team to part ways with him, but it’s a business and those conversations have to take place. If Zeitler is released, the Giants have to invest something in their interior offensive line if they don’t feel Chad Slade or Kyle Murphy are ready to see snaps behind Will Hernandez and Shane Lemieux. Cutting Zeitler is an undesirable solution in an undesirable situation to free up some cap space in pursuit of flashy yet necessary free agent signings, or retain Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson.

In sad news, former Charger and Buccaneer Vincent Jackson was found dead in a Tampa area hotel on Monday. The three-time Pro Bowler was only 38 years old and there were no apparent signs of trauma, according to local sheriffs.

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