As the Houston Texans enter a new phase and he entered the final year of his contact, it was inevitable. On Friday, the Houston Texans honored J.J. Watt’s request to be released. He would have fetched something in a trade, but Watt apparently (and rightfully) wants to determine for himself where he continues his career.
If he retired today, after 10 seasons with the Texans, not many defensive lineman (if any) are as decorated a Watt in NFL history. He is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year (2012, 2014, 2015), a five time Pro Bowler and a five-time All-Pro. He is the only player in league history with two 20-plus sack seasons, and he has four seasons with 16 or more sacks in his career.
In more recent years, durability became a concern with Watt. In 2016, a back injury cost him 13 games. Then in 2017, a leg injury sidelined him after five games. A torn pectoral sidelined him for the second half of the 2019 regular season, then he returned for the playoffs.
Watt did not have one of his best years in 2020, with five sacks. But he played all 16 games for just the second time in the last five seasons. Deeper numbers show he was quite good too.
J.J. Watt has plenty left in the tank
Pro Football Focus graded Watt as the seventh-best edge defender in the league this past season. The Texans’ defense was rotten as a whole-30th in total defense, 27th in scoring defense, 32nd against the run, etc. Without Watt, who was on the field for 91 percent of the snaps, it would’ve been even worse.
Given that he’s missed what amounts to two seasons worth of games, Watt’s career numbers could even be better. Eight top-10 grades from PFF is impressive, along with five times with double-digit sacks in seven seasons where he has played more than eight games.
Potential landing spots for Watt are pretty easy to tab. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills the early betting favorites (via Draft Kings). The New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, Las Vegas Raiders, Cleveland Browns and Washington Football Team stand out as interesting spots for him too.