The Houston Texans don't have to worry about finding out what an upset J.J. Watt looks like. They also don't have to worry about one of the NFL's most self-motivated players turning into a fat cat after signing a contract extension.
Watt, 25, signed a six-year, $100 million contract that includes $51.8 million guaranteed. The new contract, which first was reported by the Houston Chronicle's John McClain, will begin in 2016 and run through the 2021 season, when Watt turns 32.
Per McClain, Watt’s base salaries for this year and 2015 will be $907,385 and $9.969 million, respectively. Upon signing on Tuesday, Watt will receive $10 million.
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The Texans now are guaranteed to have their two expected cornerstone defenders — Watt and No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney — locked up for the next five years together, if they so choose.
Not a bad week for agent Tom Condon, who finished off this deal after negotiating a four-year, $68 million extension ($45 million guaranteed) for Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.
Watt, the 11th overall pick in 2011, is roundly considered the best defensive player in the NFL. He has logged 31 sacks the past two seasons combined (20.5 in 2012, when he was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year) and also is as stout against the run as he is the pass, playing a unique role in the team's 3-4 scheme. In three NFL seasons, Watt has started all 48 games and also has 27 passes deflected, eight forced fumbles and six recoveries.
So when you throw in how valuable Watt is, his leadership role in the locker room, how opponents scheme to stop him on a weekly basis and his expected mentorship of Clowney, it makes sense that the Texans would make Watt the most highly paid defender in the NFL.
Former Texans defensive end Mario Williams, coincidentally, had been the highest-paid defender before that, with the $50 million guaranteed (and $96 million total) he received from the Buffalo Bills upon leaving Houston. Now Watt is at the top, earning more guaranteed dollars than most of the league's starting quarterbacks and just short of the deals signed by Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers ($54 million), Tony Romo ($55 milion) and Peyton Manning ($58 million).
Watt had been slated to earn $1.9 million this season and $6.9 million in a fifth-year option that still would have paid him well below market value. Although the team could have taken advantage of this, it did not want to upset Watt — and he quietly hinted in public that he wanted something done sooner rather than later. With GM Rick Smith's policy of not negotiating contract extensions during the NFL season, the clock was ticking with Sunday's opener fast approaching.
But the two sides, which had been talking for weeks, found the middle ground. It's a good deal for Watt, even if he'll be surpassed at some point, and a very good one for the Texans, when you consider the franchise's need for stability, especially with other issues pressing at other spots on the roster. Really, Watt had zero leverage — he was locked up for two more years — and knew he had to give some ground, even if on the surface he received a record contract.
The Texans might not be ready to compete for a Super Bowl with questions on both sides of the ball, but they solved a big potential concern by locking up Watt through his prime years.
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