J.J. Watt asked for his release from Houston Texans after the 2020 season, and instead of trading him for assets, the Texans decided to honor Watt's wishes. On Friday, Watt posted a video to formally announce that he and the Texans were parting ways. When asked about his decision to release Watt, Texans owner Cal McNair said he wanted to honor the wishes of arguably the best player in franchise history. Instead of waiting on the trading block, Watt can immediately begin fielding calls from teams interested in acquiring his services.
"We evaluated our options and were confident this was the right one for J.J. and the Texans," McNair told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. "We started talking about this right after the season and we wanted to make sure we did right by him. This is not a goodbye, it's so long for now."
McNair alluded to the possibility of Watt eventually coming back to Houston.
"This gives J.J. time to pick his spot before free agency," McNair said. "We're looking for J.J. to pick a great spot, play a couple of years, and then welcome him back and celebrate him for his remarkable career."
Some fans will laud McNair's decision to allow Watt to choose where he will continue the next chapter of his career. Others, however, will be critical of the Texans releasing Watt instead of trading him for assets that could help the team. Regardless, parting with Watt means that Houston is losing his $17.5 million cap hit for the 2021 season. Houston was probably going to lose Watt after the 2021 season anyway, as he was slated to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason. During his decade in Houston, Watt was named Defensive Player of the Year three times. He also helped the Texans win six AFC South division titles.
While Watt begins to evaluate his options, McNair and the Texans still have to figure out what to do with quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson has asked for a trade, but unlike Watt, the Texans are reportedly not interested in trading him at this point in time. If the Texans do decide to trade Watson, they will undoubtedly do so sometime between the start of free agency and the 2021 draft. Given what the Lions received from the Rams in the trade of quarterback Matthew Stafford, it's safe to assume that the Texans would receive at least two first-round picks and and Day 2 draft pick for Watson, who last season led the NFL in touchdown passes.
The Texans are likely biding their time to see if Watson will decide to come back into the fold sometime over the next several weeks. If he does, Houston can begin the work of building a roster that better complements his skillset. If Watson doesn't, the Texans will be all but forced to trade him while ushering in a new era in the process.