Like every other player taken in the 2011 draft, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has become eligible for a new contract. Like every other player taken in the first round of said draft, the Texans have Watt’s rights locked up for the next two years.
And so Watt’s contract isn’t a priority for the Texans. But perhaps it should be.
“We’re not in talks with J.J.,” G.M. Rick Smith said at the Scouting Combine, via the Houston Chronicle. “We’re in internal talks to determine what our strategy [is] and how we’ll continue to put this football team together and move forward, whether we’re talking about free agency or the draft.”
The NFL’s defensive player of the year in 2012, Watt arguably is the best of the draft picks taken in 2011. (At a minimum, he’s the best of the non-quarterbacks.) Despite not losing as much as the top picks due to the arrival of the rookie wage scale in 2011, Watt definitely felt the pinch.
In 2010, 49ers tackle Anthony Davis signed a five-year $26.5 million contract as the 11th overall pick. Watt’s four-year deal is worth $11.237 million.
And while the 2015 option the Texans hold will push the five-year haul higher, Watt’s status as the first guy taken outside the top 10 will push his 2015 pay from the average of the 10 highest-paid defensive linemen in 2014 to the average of the third through the 25th.
Regardless of the gap between what Watt would have made if drafted in 2010 and what he did make in 2011, Watt’s production and potential merits a raise. A raise the Texans don’t seem to be ready to give him.
Watt has yet to address whether he’d hold out to get a new deal. Don’t be surprised if Watt would.