J.J. Watt would like to remain with the Texans as long as possible, telling reporters today, including Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle, that it would be “great” to reach an agreement on a long-term extension with the team before the 2014 regular season begins.
“When you look around the league and you see a couple guys from the 2011 draft class get contracts, it’s just nice to see appreciation being shown,” Watt said. “With the new [CBA], I think one of the goals was to make guys earn their pay. No more big paydays up front. … When a team gives a contract after the third year, they’re saying, ‘We think you’ve earned this.’ And so, I don’t know if [the Texans] feel that way or not. But I sure hope I’ve put in all the work and I’ve put in everything I can do to hopefully earn it.”
While Watt may have downplayed the Texans’ interest in getting something done, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link) hears the club has been “very engaged” in talks recently, and is making progress toward a new contract for the star defensive lineman. Having exercised their inexpensive fifth-year option on Watt for 2015, the Texans don’t need to rush to get anything done, but if they can lock up the league’s best defensive player at a reasonable rate, it certainly makes sense to do so as soon as possible. And as Watt noted, 2011 first-rounders like Patrick Peterson and Tyron Smith have already signed extensions, so that door has been opened.
Since entering the league as the 11th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Watt has been a dominant force on the Texans’ defensive line, averaging more than 12 sacks per season, including 20.5 in 2012. Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required) paint a clear picture of the sort of elite defender Watt is, with the Texans lineman recording grades of +94.2 in ’12 and +99.8 last season. By comparison, the only other two 3-4 defensive ends to grade higher than +30.0 in a season during that span were Muhammad Wilkerson (+37.2 in 2012) and Calais Campbell (+34.1 in 2013).
Although there appears to be mutual interest between Watt and the Texans in a new deal, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle points out (via Twitter) that the front office has a policy of not negotiating extensions during the season. So if there’s going to be an agreement this year, it would likely have to happen by the night before the team’s Week 1 contest.