Houston Texans defensive end JJ Watt confirmed Friday that he and the team had agreed to mutually part ways.
Watt, a three-time NFL defensive player of the year, made the announcement in a video posted to Twitter.
“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,” Watt said in the video.
Watt was drafted by Houston in 2011 with the 11th overall pick. Since then he’s grown into the face of the Texans’ franchise and one of the most recognizable stars in the league.
Houston, I wanted you to hear this directly from me... pic.twitter.com/YqT3P6Lb6l
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) February 12, 2021
"Since (the day I was drafted), I've tried to do everything in my power to work and earn your respect and try and make you proud on and off the field," Watt said. "You guys have given me everything and more, and I can only hope that you feel that I've given you everything that I have."
Though he has been hampered by injuries in recent years, he’s still recorded 101 sacks and forced 25 fumbles throughout his career, ranking as one of the most productive defensive players currently active in the NFL.
His connection to Houston also extends off the field. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Watt initially hoped to raise $100,000 in funds and match that with his own $100,000 donation. But with Watts’ help, his relief fund soon raised $37 million, which has helped serve thousands of meals to those in need and rebuild hundreds of homes in the Houston area.
Watt's fundraising helped him win the NFL's Walter Payton "Man of the Year" award — the league's most prestigious off-the-field honor — in 2017.
However, with Watt near the end of a massive contract and the Texans looking to rebuild, Watt will now finish out the rest of his career on another NFL team, likely one set to compete for a championship in the near future.
Watt's impending release also comes amid a turbulent two seasons for the Texans.
Following the 2019 regular season, Houston reached the AFC Divisional Playoffs and held a 24-0 lead over the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. They went on to lose that game 51-31, and then lost their first four games of the 2020 regular season, which led to the firing of head coach Bill O'Brien. The Texans went on to finish 2020 with a 4-12 record.
Not only is Houston likely to lose Watt, but the Texans’ other star, quarterback Deshaun Watson, has reportedly requested a trade. Watson is reportedly upset with several roster and front office moves the team has made in recent years.