After two consecutive playoff appearances and 21 wins in 2018 and 2019, the Texans struggled to four wins and third place finish in the AFC South in 2020. Quarterback DeShaun Watson is already rumored to be on the move via trade and now the long-time face of the franchise, J.J. Watt is reportedly out the door as well.
The Texans are going to release defensive end J.J. Watt, according to Ian Rapoport. Despite rumors of such a move happening, it’s still surprising that it’s come to this in Houston. Watt was slated to earn $17.5 million in 2021, which was the final year of his contract. Since there is no guaranteed money involved, the Texans clear the entire amount off their payroll. With just over $13 million in cap space available to the team, cutting Watt improves their cap space.
Selected 11th in the 2011 NFL Draft, Watt recorded 5.5 sacks as a rookie before leading the league with 20.5 the following season. After dropping to 10.5 sacks in 2013, Watt recorded 38 over the next two years and was clearly the best defensive end in the NFL. However, injuries began to hit Watt hard, limiting him to eight games and only 1.5 sacks over the next two seasons. He returned to his Pro Bowl form in 2018 with 16 sacks and seven forced fumbles. Although playing an entire season in 2020, Watt’s sack total was a relatively mediocre five.
With Watt out of the picture, Andrew Brown moves into the starting spot at defensive end with Charles Omenihu at the right defensive end. The depth is thin at the position and the Texans will need to upgrade in the draft or free agency as they continue their rebuilding phase. The 31-year-old Watt is a five-time Pro Bowler with 101 sacks and 25 forced fumbles in 128 NFL games.