J. J. Watt

J.J. Watt Not Seeking Extension, Not Contemplating Retirement

Texans star edge rusher J.J. Watt is fresh out of guaranteed cash. Per the terms of the then-record-setting extension Watt signed in 2014, he is owed a base salary of $15.5MM in 2020 and $17.5MM in 2021, but those sums are completely non-guaranteed.

However, the 31-year-old is not looking for an extension. “No, I don’t think [an extension is] necessary,” Watt said (via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle). “I’m not going to sit here and demand anything. If I asked for an extension or money right now, I think that would be the wrong move.”

And he’s probably right about that. After all, despite his hefty salary, he is in zero danger of being cut, and if he turns in a strong 2020 campaign, he will be well-positioned to renegotiate his contract next offseason. Even if he struggles through injury again, it’s still possible that the Texans would keep him on for the final year of his deal given his track record of excellence and his status with the team and community.

Watt, the No. 11 overall pick of the 2011 draft, quickly established himself as one of the premier defenders in the game, racking up four consecutive First Team All-Pro nods from 2012-15. He compiled a staggering 69 sacks over that four-year span, and he twice led the league in that category. But after he enjoyed perfect attendance throughout his first five years in the league, he was limited to just eight games over the 2016-17 seasons. Though he returned to his All-Pro form in 2018 — recording 16 sacks and a league-best seven forced fumbles in the process — a torn pectoral muscle limited him to eight regular season games in 2019.

Watt says he is healthy now, and he is not contemplating retirement anytime soon. For the time being, he is moving forward with his usual day-to-day mentality, and he believes the unique offseason will not impact him too much. “As long as you get yourself in the physical shape necessary, you’ll be able to hit the ground running,” he said.

A vintage season from Watt would go a long way towards a return to the postseason for the Texans.

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Texans Notes: Fuller, Watt, Anger

The Texans will be without a major offensive weapon when they open the playoffs against the Bills this afternoon. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports (via Twitter) that wideout Will Fuller will not play today as he continues to recover from his groin injury.

Fuller suffered the injury during Houston’s Week 16 victory over the Buccaneers. There was some optimism that the 25-year-old would be ready to return for the playoffs, but the groin injury will sideline him for at least another week. The former first-rounder finished the 2019 regular season with a career-high 49 receptions for 670 yards and three touchdowns.

With Fuller out of the lineup, Wilson suggests that receiver Keke Coutee will be active for today’s game.

Let’s check out some more notes out of Houston…

  • While the Fuller absence will certainly hurt, the Texans can at least look forward to J.J. Watt‘s return to the lineup. The veteran played in the Texans’ first eight games before suffering a torn pectoral muscle. While the risk of re-injury does exist, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport says the team isn’t planning on using the pass rusher situationally (Twitter link). Rather, the team is expected to “unleash him” instead of hold him back.
  • The Texans extended punter Bryan Anger last week, and Wilson has the details on the new deal (Twitter link). The three-year, $7.5MM contract includes $2MM guaranteed and a $1.25MM signing bonus. Anger will have a cap number of $2.312MM in 2020 and $2.812MM in 2021 and 2022. His base salary peaks at $2.5MM.
  • Anger wasn’t the only Texans player to ink an extension last week. In case you missed it, Whitney Mercilus signed a four-year deal with Houston.

Texans Activate J.J. Watt

J.J. Watt is back. Officially.

On Tuesday, the Texans formally activated their star defender, per a club announcement. Watt will return to the field for Wild Card weekend to face the Bills on Saturday.

Watt was double-teamed 30% of the time on his edge rusher snaps this year, more than any other qualifying player in the NFL. He still managed to tally four sacks and 24 tackles in eight games, up until he tore his pectoral muscle. Typically, pec surgery rules players out for three or four months, but Watt beat out the doctor’s prognosis by a wide margin.

Re-injury risk does exist here, but Watt encountering such a scenario would not jeopardize his status for Week 1 of next season. The Texans have been without their future Hall of Fame pass rusher, and their pass rush has suffered. Watt’s 21 QB hits led the league at the time of his injury, and 5.5 of Whitney Mercilus‘ 7.5 sacks came during the seven games in which Watt played from start to finish.

This will obviously increase the Texans’ chances of winning their first playoff game in three years. Houston had Watt for its 2018 wild-card game against Indianapolis but lost. Watt did not play in the Texans’ two 2016 playoff games. He’s the only player in NFL history to record two 20-plus-sack seasons, so this transaction will alter the Bills’ game plan.

To make room for Watt, the Texans placed safety Tashaun Gipson on injured reserve. The veteran had 51 tackles and three interceptions in 14 games this season. Gipson suffered a transverse process fracture in his back, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle notes. The former Browns and Jaguars starter signed a three-year, $22.5MM deal with the Texans this offseason.

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Texans Designate J.J. Watt For Return

The Texans will officially designate star defensive end J.J. Watt to return from the injured reserve list, sources tell Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). Watt has been sidelined with a torn pectoral muscle since Week 8, but this move will open the door for a playoff return.

Watt’s return to practice will open up a 21-day window for him to be added to the active roster. Considering he underwent pec surgery just eight weeks ago, it’s a remarkably fast turn around. Typically, pectoral surgery patients require three-to-four months of recovery time.

Watt’s no stranger to overcoming injuries – he’s return from two herniated disc surgeries and a tibial plateau operation. At the age of 30, this could be his toughest challenge yet.

If he’s able to retake the field, it’ll be a boon for the Texans’ chances in the playoffs. Watt was double teamed 30% of the time on his edge rusher snaps this year, more than any other qualifying player in the NFL.

The Texans have already locked down the AFC South in advance of their Week 17 matchup against the Titans. They’re currently slated to host the Bills on Wild Card weekend as the AFC’s No. 4 seed.

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J.J. Watt Expected To Return This Season

The rumblings about the Texans having their future Hall of Fame defensive end back this season have increased to the point that is now the expectation. It’s now in play J.J. Watt returns during the regular season.

If the Texans need to win in Week 17 to make the playoffs, Watt is expected to be back at practice in advance of the regular-season finale and to suit up in that game, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link). Should Houston clinch a playoff spot in its game in Tampa Bay, the expectation is Watt will return to game action in the team’s playoff opener.

The Texans brought back tight end Ian Thomas from IR earlier this season but have saved their second return designation for Watt. The 30-year-old standout suffered a torn pectoral muscle in Week 8 and is eligible to return to practice at any point. He can return to game action beginning in Week 17.

Watt, who also missed most of the 2016 and ’17 seasons due to injury, is “determined” to make it back this season. Were Watt to aggravate the pec injury, the ensuing surgery would not sideline him for any portion of the 2020 campaign.

A first-team All-Pro in five of the six seasons he made it through, Watt was leading the NFL in pressures and quarterback hits when he went down early against the Raiders in October. The only player to twice register 20 sacks in a season, Watt has four this year to go along with 20 QB hits.

Houston can clinch the AFC South title with a win today and can also lock up a first-round home game with a Titans loss to the Saints on Sunday. This would point to Watt returning in the Texans’ January game. Either way, the return of one of the league’s best players will be a major factor in the Texans’ prospects to make a deep playoff run.

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Texans’ J.J. Watt Could Return From IR

Good news for the Texans. Star defensive end J.J. Watt could return from injured reserve before the season is through, head coach Bill O’Brien said (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). 

He’s certainly made progress based on his work ethic and who he’s working with in the training room. We will see,” said O’Brien on Monday morning.

Regardless of whether he makes it back for either of the team’s final two regular season tilts, Watt is “determined” to return to the field for the playoffs, as John McClain of the Houston Chronicle writes. Though defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel would surely love to have Watt in the fold, he did try to temper expectations a bit.

“We won’t know until that occurs and see where he is because every player who comes back from injury, you have to see where he is and what he can and cannot do,” Crennel said when asked about what it would mean to get Watt back on the field. “Then, I think that’ll make the difference in how much he can help or will help or if he helps.”

Watt suffered a torn pec during the Texans’ Week 8 win over the Raiders, and Watt himself acknowledged that he would miss the remainder of the year. But rehab has gone well for Watt, and he is pushing hard to return. The Texans have all but secured their place in the postseason, and a win over the Bucs on Sunday would seal up the AFC South title. Of course, if the Texans beat the Bucs, they could take the safe approach and keep Watt off of the field until the first round of the playoffs.

Getting Watt back in any capacity would obviously be a major boon for the Texans’ championship hopes. One of the game’s best defenders when healthy, the five-time First Team All-Pro posted 16 sacks in 2018 — the first time he had played a full season since 2015 — and had four sacks in 2019 before suffering the pec injury.

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J.J. Watt Could Return In 2019

Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt may not be out for the season after all. As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes, Houston is saving its final injured reserve/designated to return spot for Watt, who could return for the playoffs (if not sooner).

Watt suffered a torn pec during the Texans’ Week 8 win over the Raiders, and Watt himself acknowledged that he would miss the remainder of the year. But Watt is doing remarkably well in rehab, and he is therefore optimistic he could return to the field much sooner than initially anticipated.

Per Rapoport, Watt will have another MRI in a few weeks to determine his status, and there is even some thought that he could be back for the regular season finale against the Titans (assuming, of course, that the game carries any playoff significance). And even if Watt aggravates the pec injury, the ensuing surgery would not sideline him for any portion of the 2020 campaign.

Getting Watt back in any capacity would obviously be a major boon for the Texans’ championship hopes. One of the game’s best defenders when healthy, the five-time First Team All-Pro posted 16 sacks in 2018 — the first time he had played a full season since 2015 — and had four sacks in 2019 before suffering the pec injury.

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Texans’ J.J. Watt Done For The Year

The Texans escaped with a close win over the Raiders on Sunday, but they also suffered a huge loss. The team fears that star defensive end J.J. Watt tore his pec and will miss the rest of the season, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Shortly after Rapoport’s report, Watt confirmed the news himself on Twitter.

“This game can be beautiful and it can also be brutal. Absolutely gutted that I won’t be able to finish the season with my guys and give the fans what they deserve. I truly love this game and can’t stand letting you guys down. Thank you for all of the thoughts & well-wishes,” his tweet read.

It’s a massive blow to Houston’s defense, which is already pretty banged up. It’s also devastating for Watt, who has had brutal injury luck the past few seasons. Watt appeared in only three games in 2016, and five in 2017. Back issues cost him most of 2016, with a plateau fracture ruining his next campaign. He appeared in all 16 games last year, and racked up 16 sacks. He’d been strong again this year, with four sacks and 20 quarterback hits through Houston’s first seven games.

The Texans are in a tight race in the AFC South, and this is the last thing they needed. Players have been dropping like flies in their secondary, including top cornerback Bradley Roby. Watt will be 31 when next season kicks off, and coming off his third major injury in four years. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year is under contract through the 2021 season.

Watt has been playing at a really high level, and is the undisputed leader of the team’s defense. The Texans traded away Jadeveon Clowney right before the start of the season, who they could certainly use now. With the trade deadline just a couple of days away, it’s possible the Texans will now explore the market for a veteran pass-rusher.

Injury Notes: Brown, Luck, Gore, Watt, Jones, Lawrence

Here’s the latest on all the injuries to big names as training camps get underway across the league:

  • There was a brief uproar earlier when it was mysteriously announced that Antonio Brown would start camp on the Raiders’ non-football injury list. However, the as of now undisclosed issue that caused Brown to be placed on the NFI was described to Field Yates of ESPN as “very minor” (Twitter link). Further, Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune tweets that the Raiders have known of the injury for two weeks, and that Brown will probably only miss a week of camp time. Despite the initial panic, it doesn’t sound like this is anything you need to monitor going forward.
  • Andrew Luck was sidelined by a calf injury during the Colts’ offseason program, which sparked some concerns about his Achilles. However, Luck told Tom Pelissero of NFL Network today “my Achilles is not at extra risk of anything. It’s fine” (Twitter link). In a separate tweet, Pelissero notes Luck participated in team drills today, and that his limited workload has only been precautionary.
  • Speaking of the NFI, Bills GM Brandon Beane said that running back Frank Gore has been removed from it, per longtime Bills beat reporter Joe Buscaglia (Twitter link). Gore had been dealing with a minor injury, but has passed his physical and is cleared to practice. Gore will be competing for carries in a crowded Buffalo backfield that also features LeSean McCoy and rookie Devin Singletary.
  • J.J. Watt started camp on the Texans’ PUP list, but he’s now been removed and cleared to practice, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Watt was limited to just eight combined games in 2016 and 2017 due to injuries, but he played a full 16-game slate last year. Watt wasn’t the only Texan to get cleared, as James Palmer of NFL Network tweets that DeAndre Hopkins was also cleared and activated from PUP.
  • Byron Jones, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford and Noah Brown will start camp on the PUP list for the Cowboys, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com. Fortunately, Dallas is expecting all of them to be ready for the start of the season. Lawrence had offseason shoulder surgery, Jones had surgery on his hip, and Crawford is also dealing with a hip injury. Last we heard, there had been no progress in extension talks between the team and Jones.

J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins To Begin Texans Camp On PUP List

Both J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins will start Texans training camp a bit late. Each Houston All-Pro will begin camp on the active/PUP list, according to ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter).

Watt underwent a minor knee surgery this offseason, but that procedure came in January. The future Hall of Fame defensive end has otherwise enjoyed his healthiest offseason in years, it coming after two rehab-heavy years following severe injuries.

Hopkins dealt with significant shoulder pain last season, telling the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain he tore ligaments “completely off the bone.” Still, neither Watt nor Hopkins missed a game last season. Hopkins was expected to be ready for camp, and given how well he played through injury last season, it is likely he is not in jeopardy of missing time to start this year.

Neither standout’s stay on the PUP list is expected to last long, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com adds (on Twitter).

Players placed on teams’ active/PUP lists can return at any point during training camp. A player placed on the reserve/PUP list after 53-man rosters are set must sit out at least the first six weeks of a season.

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