Houston Texans Pick Up J.J. Watt's Fifth Year Option **New Info Updated**

"Let's talk about burritos!" - Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Your Houston Texans have exercised the team option for a fifth year on J.J. Watt's rookie contract.

The tweet heard round Houston:

NFL teams have until May 3rd to exercise the fifth-year option for players in the 2011 class drafted in the first round.  Under the new CBA, this is the first draft class to face this new type of contract.  The option varies by selection within the first round, and players drafted 11th through 32nd receive the average of the top 25 salaries of that player's position not including the top three salaries.  

J.J. Watt is projected to make $6.696 million in 2015.

This takes leverage away from Watt as he enters the fourth year of the contract in 2014, and it is a prudent move by the Texans.  They can also apply a franchise tag in 2016 and 2017, but that is highly unlikely for a player as valuable as the former "Defensive Player of the Year" in 2012.  We will very likely see a long-term contract agreed upon before this season begins or next offseason for a superstar who has certainly earned it.

Other members in this draft class with the fifth-year option exercised:

  • CB Jimmy Smith - Ravens: confirmed
  • DE Corey Liuget - Chargers: confirmed
  • DE Muhammad Wilkerson - Jets: rumored
  • It is likely that the Panthers will exercise this option for Cam Newton prior to the May 3rd deadline.

"Big Trouble in Little China"

Meanwhile, the Lions have stated that they WILL NOT apply this team option for DT Nick Fairley.  The saga of legal issues for LB Aldon Smith may also affect the 49ers' decision to exercise the fifth-year option on his contract.  Smith was arrested at Los Angeles Airport (LAX) last Sunday for charges of a false bomb report.

***Friday 4/18 UPDATE***

Mike Florio says; "JJ Watt likely to hold out."

What?!! WHAT?!!!!!  That’s certainly NOT in character for Watt. Strap Florio in irons and have him flogged immediately!

You can hear the audio in his interview on Sports Radio 610 by clicking HERE.

Florio (audio @3:17); "I think of all the guys who were taken in the first round of the 2011 draft; even though Watt wasn’t one of the top-five picks that really felt the squeeze of the new rookie wage scale – those guys lost a LOT of money just by virtue of the fact they were one year late; but even though Watt doesn’t fall into that category, I think he is one of the most likely to hold out. He and Patrick Peterson of the Cardinals would be the most likely to hold out. Watt hasn’t said anything, none of this is public, but there’s enough swirling around there that if they don’t take care of JJ Watt he’s potentially not going to be around."

He does have a good point that this draft class was screwed out of pretty good coin compared to previous rookie classes for high 1st round picks.  Even more unfortunate for Watt is that he was selected 11th overall.  Had he been drafted in the top-ten, then his fifth-year option would be equal to the transition tag for his position which is a one-year contract equal to the average salary of the top ten players in the league at the player's position, or a twenty percent salary increase, whichever is greater.

NFL Values for 2014:

Franchise tags

Quarterback: $16.192 million

Running back: $9.54 million
Wide receiver: $12.312 million
Tight end: $7.035 million
Offensive lineman: $11.654 million  
Defensive end: $13.116 million
Defensive tackle: $9.654 million 
Linebacker: $11.455 million 
Cornerback: $11.834 million
Safety: $8.433 million
Kicker/punter: $3.556 million

Transition tags

Quarterback: $14.666 million

Running back: $8.033 million
Wide receiver: $10.176 million
Tight end: $6.106 million
Offensive lineman: $10.039 million  
Defensive end: $10.633 million
Defensive tackle: $8.060 million 
Linebacker: $9.754 million 
Cornerback: $10.081 million
Safety: $7.253 million
Kicker/punter: $3.205 million

That represents about a $4 million difference in being selected 11th overall, instead of top-ten.

I think the Texans are very likely to secure a long-term contract with Watt before the season begins.  One can argue on either side of the debate of the impact Johnny Manziel would have for the team in terms of marketing, fan support and actual game performance if he were to somehow become a Houston Texans' QB.  However, it would be absolute franchise suicide for the Texans to screw up the JJ Watt situation; especially when they are neck-deep trying to reboot the club into a new era and maintain any positive momentum and fan support from the two out of three previous seasons that resulted in division championships.

Bob McNair should be a smart enough business man to realize that there are two players who should be considered nearly untouchable so long as they don't screw up on or off the field: Andre Johnson and JJ Watt.  If either of them exits this team to play elsewhere in the NFL, the Texans would face serious consequences in terms of fan support and on-field success.  Do the right thing Texans!  Sign JJ Watt long-term before this season begins.

We have Watt locked up through 2015. Sound off below with your thoughts on his contract situation, how you see it playing out for a long-term extension, and the other players from this historic draft class facing similar contract options.

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