J.J. Watt has been one of the faces of the Texans since he was drafted in 2011.
He’ll be playing for a different team in 2021.
Watt asked for and was granted his release from the franchise, the three-time defensive player of the year said in a video posted to social media on Friday morning.
“I have sat down with the McNair family and I have asked for my release, and we have mutually agreed to part ways at this time,” Watt said in the video. “I came here 10 years ago as a kid from Wisconsin who had never really been to Texas before. And now I can’t imagine my life without Texas in it. The way that you guys have treated me — besides draft night, I mean, you guys booed me on draft night — but every day after that, you treated me like family. And I truly feel like you’re my family. Since that day, I have tried to do everything in my power to work and earn your respect, and try and make you proud on and off the field. You guys have given me everything and more, and I can only hope that you feel like I’ve given you everything I have.”
Watt noted he met his wife in Houston and made lifelong friends with teammates. He also credited those behind the scenes in the organization and the fans in public for their support.
“The connection is special,” Watt said. “And I will never, ever take that for granted because I know how rare that is.”
Watt got through the full 2020 season healthy, recording 5.0 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, 17 quarterback hits, seven passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and an interception. Watt hasn’t reached double-digit sacks since 2018, when he recorded 16.0. But he can still be effective and should have a solid market for his services in 2021. He’ll turn 32 on March 22.
“I’m excited and looking forward to a new opportunity. And I’ve been working extremely hard,” Watt said. “But at the same time, it is always tough to move on.”
Watt leaves the Texans after 128 starts, 101.0 sacks, 172 tackles for loss, 282 quarterback hits, 25 forced fumbles, 16 fumble recoveries and a pair of pick sixes.