The Indianapolis Colts are widely rumored to be in the market for a defensive end this offseason, and the latest buzz indicates that they’re motivated to re-sign veteran Justin Houston before free agency gets underway in two weeks.
Well, a reunion with Houston appears more likely after the latest offseason bombshell, as in-demand edge rusher JJ Watt, who was shockingly released by the Texans a few weeks ago, confirmed on Monday that he inked a two-year, $31 million deal with Arizona.
It goes without saying that the Cardinals surprised everybody by pulling this off as they weren’t really considered the favorites (or in contention, for that matter) for Watt’s signature.
However, looking at the contract details, should the Colts have any regrets about not pursuing him more aggressively than they did?
At first glance, $15.5 million per year might not seem like a lot for a proven superstar like Watt considering what he brings to a defense.
All things considered, though, this deal was probably out of the Colts’ spending budget this offseason.
JJ Watt’s contract with the Cardinals would’ve been risky business for the Colts
Had the Colts decided to draft a quarterback or sign a stopgap option on the cheap, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.
However, since they traded for Wentz and his pricey contract, which carries a $25.4 million cap hit for next season, they have to be conscientious with how they allocate their money in free agency.
Any sane fan would’ve loved to see Watt sign with the Colts, but considering that he doesn’t fit a position of dire need, has a lengthy injury history and is fresh off his most unproductive seasons (statistically speaking) of his career, we’re totally fine with not giving up $23 million in guaranteed money for him.
To put another positive spin on it, if we had to choose between landing Watt and not being able to address another roster blemish (like cornerback or wide receiver), or missing out on Watt and maintaining the flexibility to fill multiple holes, we’d side with the latter every time.
By choosing not to pursue Watt aggressively, there’s nothing preventing the Colts from re-signing Justin Houston, for instance, who’s quietly been more durable and productive than Watt over the last two seasons. After that, they can still land potentially both a top-tier wideout and cornerback in free agency.
Who knows? If Indianapolis plays their cards right, they could even get away with signing another edge rusher to line up opposite Houston.
This would obviously be an entirely different story if Watt landed with the Titans or with another contender in the AFC. However, the fact that he signed with a Cardinals team that is fresh off an underwhelming 8-8 campaign for $15.5 million per year should really make this an easy pill to swallow for Colts fans.