Watt happy to earn contract -- and he has

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After a two-hour practice against the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt walked over to a blocking sled sitting on the edge of the practice field.

It was the first action that sled had had in a while -- the Broncos never use them anymore -- and Watt put it through it. He delivered blow after blow with the force he reserves to dispatch opposing offensive linemen, pummeling the sheds for several minutes, finally yielding to catch his breath before moving on to his post-practice obligations.

Watt doesn't mind the work. He doesn't mind the fact that as the 11th pick in 2011 his rookie contract was significantly smaller than those selected before him. One goal for the new rookie scale in the collective bargaining agreement was to force players to earn big contracts, rather than get them upon arrival. And he doesn't mind that either (though, what choice does he have?).

Those post-practice obligations included a barrage of questions about his contract situation following comments Watt made to Yahoo! Sports about hoping he'd earned the same appreciation he's seen other 2011 draft picks get.

Watt wouldn't say it today, but I will: He has earned the new contract he has yet to receive. There are salary-cap concerns to consider, sure, but those can be navigated without things getting ugly between the Texans and the best defensive player in franchise history.

The genesis of this came from a reaction to some of owner Bob McNair's comments earlier this month. In a conversation we had, McNair made clear he wouldn't be afraid to use the franchise tag on Watt. McNair brought up the concept of the franchise tag unprompted, noting that Watt would be with the Texans one way or another for the next four seasons: 2014 on his rookie deal, 2015 on the rookie deal's option year, 2016 on a franchise tag if necessary and 2017 on another franchise tag. I asked about the potential ill will using the franchise tag could cause in negotiations and McNair said he wasn't worried. He said that was just a negotiating tactic.

But using that franchise tag says something. It also lacks the security players crave.

Today, Watt reiterated that his goal is always to outperform any contract he has.

"You should want people to think you're underpaid because of how hard you work, because of how well you do your job, because of how you go about your business," Watt said. "That's just personal pride."

Mission accomplished, because Watt has far outperformed his contract. Getting him for just $1.9 million this year and $6.9 million in 2015, the option year the Texans picked up in May, is a steal. He's been one of the most dominant interior defensive linemen in the NFL for the past two seasons.

Today, Watt avoided actively voicing the frustration nobody would blame him for having at this point. He didn't demand a contract. He didn't say he'd earned the same consideration given to Patrick Peterson (five years, $70 million) or Tyron Smith (eight years, $98 million). He deferred business talks when asked today, saying the time hadn't come for him to get involved. He was asked why he didn't use his leverage, perhaps with a holdout, and said that he wanted to be with his team -- and it hadn't come to that point.

But there were hints of frustration even in his carefully selected words.

One came when Watt said this: "I think when you look around the league and you see a couple other guys from the 2011 draft class get contracts, I think it's just nice to see the appreciation being shown."

Another came when Watt said this: "I always try and put on the best face I can for this organization and be the best ambassador I can be for the Houston Texans."

And the third was this: "Right now I’m in football mode, so I worry about that. If the time comes that I need to get involved in the business side I will.”

The Texans shouldn't let that time come -- and I don't think they will.