The Houston Texans went from being 24-0 up on the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs to a smoldering 4-12 mess that is currently the most dysfunctional organization in the NFL. As the team’s implosion continues, the franchise’s most iconic player is leaving after ten seasons.
Star pass rusher J.J. Watt requested his release and the Texans granted it as opposed to once again getting fleeced in a trade.
“I’ve sat down with the McNair family and I have asked them for my release and we have mutually agreed to part ways at this time,” Watt said in his farewell video. “I came here 10 years ago as a kid from Wisconsin who’d never really been to Texas before. And now I can’t imagine my life without Texas in it. The way that you guys have treated me, besides draft night. I mean you guys booed me on draft night. But every day after that, you treated me like family. And I truly feel like you’re my family.”
Watt has had trouble staying healthy since the 2016 season. Back surgery ended his 2016 campaign after just three games, and then fractured his leg the following year after just five games. He was fully healthy in 2018 and terrorized quarterbacks to the tune of 16 sacks, which incredibly doesn’t even rank in his top-three regular season sack totals.
In 2019, Watt once again missed a ton of time to injury, this time due to a torn pectoral muscle. Last year he started all 16 games and had just five sacks but he did force two fumbles and return an interception for a touchdown. According to ESPN he ranked 15th out of 119 qualified pass-rushers in pass rush win rate. Beyond his impact on the field, Watt’s charitable work (particularly following Hurricane Harvey) has made him forever beloved in the city of Houston.
Watt is 31 years old which is hardly ancient. In fact he’s younger than Carlos Dunlap by a few weeks. The injury history (which Dunlap doesn’t have) is a concern but on a better, more talented defense he could be a valuable part of a team’s defensive line. He was due $17.5 million in salary in 2021 but none of it was guaranteed, so the Texans save all that money in cap space and Watt gets to start somewhere anew. Ideally that “somewhere anew” is none of the Los Angeles Rams, Arizona Cardinals, or San Francisco 49ers.