The Texans have released J.J. Watt. Watt, 32 in March, recently suggested that he does not want to be part of a rebuild. Now, he’ll have the opportunity to join a contender. In a video posted to Twitter, Watt reflected fondly on his time in Houston and thanked fans for their years of support.
“I can’t imagine my life without Texas in it. The way you guys treated me — besides draft night, you guys booed me on draft night — every day after that you treated me like family and I truly feel like you are my family,” Watt said. “Since that day, I have tried to do everything in my power to work and earn your respect, and try and make you proud on and off the field. You guys have given me everything and more, and I can only hope that you feel like I’ve given you everything I have.”
With a new coaching staff and front office, things were already expected to look a whole lot different in Houston next season. In the last year, the Texans have parted ways with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, head coach Bill O’Brien, executive GM Brian Gaine, and longtime president Jamey Rootes. Even if the Texans don’t trade Deshaun Watson, they’ll be down at least one superstar in 2021.
“Change is never easy, especially when it involves the ones you love,” Texas CEO Cal McNair said in a statement. “J.J.’s impact on not only our organization, but the entire Houston community, is unlike any player in our franchise’s history. I told J.J. earlier this week that we will forever consider him a Texan. We take solace in knowing that this is not a goodbye but a ‘see you soon.’ For now, we will build upon the foundation that J.J. created here and forge ahead with our unwavering mission to bring a championship to our city, create memorable experiences for our fans and do great things for Houston.”
Watt, a self described “kid from Wisconsin,” was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2011 draft. He went on to appear in 128 games for the Texans across ten seasons, earning five Pro Bowl nods, multiple First-Team All-Pro selections, and three DPOY trophies. He leaves Houston as the team’s all-time leader in sacks (101), tackles for loss (172), quarterback hits (281), and forced fumbles (25).
Per the terms of Watt’s contract — a record-breaker, at the time of signing in 2014 — Watt was set to earn $17.5MM in 2021, which would have been his walk year. However, that sum was completely non-guaranteed, so the Texans will be left with $0 in dead money as they begin a brand new era.
There have been rumblings about a Watt departure, but the news is stunning nonetheless. Watt resonated with Houstonians in a way that few athletes ever have. Between Watt’s impressive work on the field and his humanitarian efforts off of the field, he’ll always be beloved in Texas, even as he finishes his career elsewhere.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.