Houston… The Houston Texans released defensive star J.J. Watt Friday and granted his wish.

Watt became No. 11 with the Texans in 2011 and has become the face of the franchise. From 2012 to 2015, he won three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards. He is one of three players who have won the award three times.

I spoke to the McNair family and asked them to release me, and at that point we agreed to part ways, Watt said in a video posted on Twitter. I came here ten years ago as a kid from Wisconsin who had never been to Texas. And now I can’t imagine my life without Texas. The way you treated me, except on the night of the draft. I mean, you booed me the night of the game. But every day after that, you treated me like a member of the family. And I really feel like you guys are my family.

… I am very excited and looking forward to this new opportunity and I have been working very hard. But at the same time, it’s always hard to move on. And I just want you to know that I love you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. I am grateful to the McNair family for preparing me and giving me my first chance in the NFL.

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J.J. Watt shows he was fired by the Texans after nine seasons in Houston.

Watt has one year left on his contract signed in 2014. He was owed $17.5 million through 2021, but his salary was not guaranteed. Now he can sign with another team.

League sources told ESPN’s Ed Werder that a dozen teams have expressed interest in Watt since his firing, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cleveland Browns, the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans. According to some sources, Watt’s priority in determining his next team was his belief that he could play in the Super Bowl with this team because of his fans; he never made it to the Conference Championship Game.

Watt’s brothers, T.J. and Derek, both play for the Steelers. After J.J. Watt announced his release Friday, T.J. tweeted that he wanted his brother to be in Pittsburgh.

J.J. Watt is in his second 16-game season since 2015, having suffered multiple late season injuries since then.

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Change is never easy, especially when it affects your loved ones. J.J.’s impact on our organization, as well as the entire Houston community, is unlike any other player in the history of our franchise, CEO Cal McNair said in a prepared statement. I told JJ at the beginning of the week that we will always consider him a Texan. We console ourselves with the knowledge that this is not goodbye, but that we will meet again soon. For now, we’re going to build on the foundation JJ has laid here and continue our relentless mission to bring the championship to our city, create an unforgettable experience for our fans and do great things for Houston.

Watts is ranked 15th in 2020, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Ranks first among 119 qualified setters in passing yards gained. He finished the season with five sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception that was converted into a touchdown.

Watt is by far the most prolific bum in Texas history with 101 career sacks. Since its first season in 2002, the team has had only two players with more than 30 career sacks (Whitney Mercilus with 54 and Mario Williams with 53).

He’s one of the best defensive players in history, McNair told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. It’s hard to sum it up in one or two sentences, because he meant a lot to the team and the city. His legacy will remain with us for many years to come. It’s goodbye for now, but not forever. My kids grew up with him. He played with them on the sidelines. One of my kids has a birthday on the same day as him. Mom’s a big fan. He meant a lot to all of us. If he does well, he has time to choose his next stop.

During the season, Watt made it clear that he was not interested in playing for a team that was in the rebuilding phase.

I don’t think it’s a secret that I don’t have another 10 years in this league, Watt said in November. Personally, I think there are still a few big ones in me. But you can’t… I’m not going to rebuild. I want to go for the championship, and that’s what I want to do.

When asked at the end of the season if he thought the Texans would be in rebuilding mode in 2021, Mr. Watt replied that there were so many unknown factors at this point that it was impossible to say definitively.

The change will happen. It’s part of the NFL, McNair told Schefter. It’s inevitable, but not always easy. Bittersweet. That’s my word to J.J. today. We owe it to JJ to give him enough time to choose his next target.

While one player leaves the team, another remains on the sidelines as Deshaun Watson has requested a trade, although the Texans have confirmed they have no intention of taking on the star quarterback.

There’s a lot of misinformation out there, McNair told Schefter. I’ll leave it at that. Today we want to focus on J.J. Deshaunay is our QB, he’s a Texan, and we expect him to remain a Texan and to remain a Texan.

Watt’s departure came during an offseason when the Texans hired coach David Calley and general manager Nick Caserio to replace Bill O’Brien, who held both positions and was fired after the 0-4 season.

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