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Texans to release J.J. Watt after he asks for release

The Texans are in the midst of a transition, and they’re cutting a franchise cornerstone.

UPDATE: Watt released a video to announce his release. He said he and the McNair family spoke and after he asked to be released they agreed to the move.

The Houston Texans are going to release star defensive end and one-time franchise cornerstone J.J. Watt, according to Ian Rapoport. There had been rumors a parting of the ways could happen, but this is still a bit of a shocker.

Watt was due to earn $17.5 million in 2021, which would also be the final year of his contract. He has no guaranteed money remaining on the deal, so the Texans clear the entire amount. They entered the offseason a projected $13.4 million over the cap, per Over The Cap, so this move quickly helps their situation.

In spite of the cap relief, this is bigger than that. Watt has been a cornerstone of the franchise since they picked him No. 11 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. He’s a three-time defensive player of the year, five-time first team All Pro, and departs with 101 career sacks, which ranks No. 1 in franchise history and 31st in NFL history. He’s struggled to stay healthy in recent years, playing a combined 16 games in 2016, 2017, and 2019. He played out the full 2018 and 2020 seasons.

The Texans defense ranked 30th last year and will likely see a significant overhaul this offseason. Add in the questions around Deshaun Watson’s status and this could turn into the biggest offseason in Texans history.