The list of great football families isn’t necessarily a short one. But how many of them establish it in a single generation? The Watt family managed to do that with their three boys, two of whom are on track to be Hall of Famers.
Two of them are still in the league, with the Pittsburgh Steelers, with Derek joining T.J.—drafted by the team in the first round in 2017—as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. They had three years together. But what about everybody playing together?
“When [J.J.] was leaving Houston he was in like, true free agency. It was brushed on briefly, but when it comes down to the numbers of things, you realize it’s not very likely”, T.J. said on an episode of the Pardon My Take podcast earlier this week.
J.J. is the oldest sibling, drafted in the first round in 2011, and he fairly recently announced his retirement after a 12-year career. That he will be going into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot is not even up for debate as a three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
But he spent the vast majority of his career with the Houston Texans, who drafted him. He was there for 10 years and was committed to them for most of that time, never allowing himself to hit the open market. He signed a six-year contract extension in 2014 after just three seasons in the league, which carried him through 2021.
Things soured greatly over time, however, and then precipitously in 2020. He asked for his release in February of 2021 and was, for the first time ever, a free agent. He took weeks to make a decision of where to sign before finally joining the Arizona Cardinals.
But apparently, T.J. admits, the topic at least had come up. He and Derek were both already together in Pittsburgh by then, but that was an especially bad time for the Steelers to even be considering any substantial free agency moves, given the implosion of the salary cap following the pandemic year.
While they benefited in cap from the retirements of Maurkice Pouncey and Vance McDonald, they also had to make some cuts, including Steven Nelson and Vince Williams, just to get right. Their biggest free agent addition was Joe Haeg.
Watt, meanwhile, signed a two-year, $28 million contract, substantially larger than any contract the Steelers have ever given to an outside free agent, unrestricted or otherwise. That remains Joe Haden’s three-year, $27 million deal in 2017.
It was always going to be a longshot, just because of contract demands, that the three would ever end up on the same team at this level. At least one of them would have had to make a substantial financial sacrifice to make it happen.
But it’s interesting to know that it at least came up in a real sense, even if it was also recognized as very unlikely. They obviously would have loved to have had the opportunity to all play together. It would have been cool to see. But as J.J. said, he’s all in on the Steelers now—as a fan.