On Friday, the unthinkable happened as the Houston Texans and star defensive end JJ Watt mutually agreed to part ways. Watt was drafted 11th overall by the Texans in the 2011 NFL Draft. As a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, JJ Watt anchored the defensive line for ten seasons.
Houston, I wanted you to hear this directly from me… pic.twitter.com/YqT3P6Lb6l
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) February 12, 2021
However, over the past few seasons, this move felt inevitable, right?
In September of 2014, Watt signed a six-year, $100 Million contract extensions with the Texans. This extension came at the height of Watt’s career, as he won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, 2014, and 2015. However, there were also down years in Watt’s career. 2016, 2017, and 2019 saw Watt miss significant time due to injuries.
JJ Watt’s Impact On The City Of Houston
In 2017, the City of Houston suffered a devasting flood following Hurricane Harvey’s landfall. Many in the city had several feet of water enter their homes, causing a massive amount of damage.
JJ Watt led the charge to fundraise money for hurricane relief, raising an eye-opening $41.6 Million. Money raised help rebuild over 1,100 homes that were damaged. Already an impactful star in Houston, Watt’s popularity continued to grow.
Due in part to his fundraising efforts, JJ Watt was awarded the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in 2017.
What’s Next For JJ Watt And The Houston Texans?
Now that he has been released by the Texans, JJ Watt is now free to sign with any team in the NFL. Watt does not have to wait for the new league year, which means that he’s able to sign with a new team immediately. Pittsburgh, where Watt’s two brothers currently play, seems like a likely destination. However, Watt’s wife Kealia plays professional soccer for the Chicago Red Stars. Given Watt’s desire to win a championship in the NFL, the Bears could be a potential suitor, especially if they’re able to find a capable quarterback to lead the team.
The Houston Texans are now in full rebuild mode. Deshaun Watson, the quarterback of the Texans, wants to be traded elsewhere. While it’s unfortunate that JJ Watt will no longer be a member of the team, the Texans are now free of having to pay $17.5 Million this year. Given that the salary cap will be reduced to an estimated $185 Million, this move seemed likely.
While there will never be a replacement for what JJ Watt has contributed to the Texans organization, Houston must now find a replacement for one of the best defensive ends in all of football.