Deshaun Watson’s uncertain future has dominated headlines in recent weeks. But he might not be the only Texans icon on his way out of Houston.
The Texans are mulling how to proceed with defensive end J.J. Watt, according to a report Saturday from NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo.
“The sense,” Rapoport wrote on Twitter, “… is that it might make more sense elsewhere.”
NFL Media’s James Palmer reported multiple Houston players and coaches believe the 31-year-old Watt “has played his last game as a Texan.”
Watt, who turns 32 in March, is one of the greatest players in Texans franchise history. He’s spent his entire 10-year career in Houston, earning three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards and five first-team All-Pro nods.
But as the Texans begin a rebuild under new general manager Nick Caserio and head coach David Culley, offloading Watt and his $17.5 million salary would make sense. Watt is entering the final year of his contract and has no dead money left on his deal, meaning Houston can trade or release him with no financial penalty.
Watt’s best days are behind him — his five sacks in 2020 were his fewest in any non-injury-shortened season — but he still would be a valuable addition to a team in need of pass-rushing help.
Caserio’s former team, the New England Patriots, falls into that category. A dearth of front-seven talent was a major issue for New England’s defense, which ranked 26th in sacks and 25th in sack rate this season.
Watt, who batted three Cam Newton passes in the Texans’ Week 11 win over the Patriots, has battled various injuries in recent years but played in all 16 games this season. His $17.5 million salary cap hit for 2021 — too rich for a player of his current caliber — could be lowered through a contract extension (and would be erased if Houston releases him).
Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been highly complimentary of Watt over the course of his career, comparing him to Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor on multiple occasions.
New England is set to enter the new league year with upward of $60 million in salary cap space but has numerous roster holes that need patching, including needs at quarterback, wide receiver and tight end.