Some thoughts on J.J. Watt's future

This morning I wrote a piece from a chat I had with Houston Texans owner Bob McNair. There's more where that came from: A lot of that interview will wind up in a feature I'm working on about McNair. But I pulled out a few newsworthy bits to share today.

One of our many topics was about defensive end J.J. Watt's future. McNair made clear that he wants Watt with the Texans for a long time but that he isn't afraid to franchise Watt to keep him on the team for the next four seasons. I went into more detail here.

Some notes on that matter:

  • Watt is part of that 2011 draft class that is the first under the new collective bargaining agreement. The first-rounders signed four-year deals with fifth-year team options. Because Watt was the 11th pick, his option number is an average of the top 25 players at his position minus the top two highest paid. If he winds up playing on that deal, it will be a significant bargain for what the Texans are getting on the field.

  • Two players from that class have signed contract extensions already. The Dallas Cowboys signed left tackle Tyron Smith to an eight-year extension worth $109 million. The Arizona Cardinals signed cornerback Patrick Peterson to a five-year extension worth $70 million. Watt's per-year average should be bigger than both of them.

  • Mario Williams got a six-year deal worth $100 million after the 2011 season. I wouldn't be surprised if Watt beats that. Williams is currently the highest-paid defensive end in the NFL. Defensive ends and cornerbacks are the highest paid on defense. If Watt does beat out Williams, his deal could make him the highest-paid non-quarterback in the league.

  • After this season, the Texans might be better equipped to understand how much they can commit to Watt and how they'll need to structure his contract to make sure it doesn't negatively impact the roster. The salary cap could jump then to aid their efforts.