JJ Watt's legendary Texans career has come to an end

JJ Watt is moving on. Photo by Getty Images. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

As the Texans bumble around as the present laughingstock organization of the NFL if not all civilization, will their last 2020 employee to quit, be fired, or ask out please turn out the lights?

J.J. Watt asking for and receiving his release is the latest chapter. Turning 32 years old next month, Watt moving on makes sense for both parties. He can hook on with a contender. While not the player he used to be Watt is still good and interest in him will be substantial, albeit at a lower pay grade. What would have been Watt's 17 and a half million dollar salary for 2021 was bloated and untenable for the Texans, and rendered his trade value minimal. The first half of Watt's 10 season Texans career was legendary. The injury-plagued second half had just one big time season. With his three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards Watt's peak is unmatched in franchise history, but Andre Johnson maintained his peak level over a longer period. Who is the greatest Texan ever is legitimately debatable. We'll see whether Deshaun Watson will be around to make it a three horse race. Seems unlikely.

President Jamey Rootes departing this week is of very little consequence to the football side of the operation. The Texans will make money hand over fist regardless. But that a respected 20-plus year employee opts out without another job lined up is analogous to jumping off the Titanic and worrying about a lifeboat later.

The evident power and influence amassed by Svengali Jack Easterby is stupefying. In fairness, any team that hires a new head coach and a new general manager is going to have a degree of organizational turnover. Nevertheless, until stuff happens that materially moves the Texans in a positive direction, Cal McNair is going to be thought of as an in over his head boob who believes in Easterby the way five-year-olds believe in the Easter Bunny.

Baseball is right around the corner

This time next week Astros' spring training will be underway in West Palm Beach. While diminished from what they were 2017-19, the Astros continue to have the makings of what should be a good ballclub. The Astros are the only of Houston's Big Three franchises not needing a high-powered telescope to see championship contention.

Rough stretch for the Rockets

What a dismal week for the Rockets. Monday they managed a humiliating seven point fourth quarter in getting blown out at Charlotte, Tuesday in New Orleans the Pelicans mopped the floor with them, and then Thursday an early 13 point lead turned out to be worthless as Miami handled them at Toyota Center. The Hornets, Pelicans, and Heat all have losing records. The Rockets are now 11-14 and sinking like a stone. They simply don't have enough talent to be a good NBA team. This is not a "when Christian Wood gets back" solution waiting to happen. Too many teams are simply better. Hardly any teams have the paucity of young talent the Rockets have.

All in all John Wall has played at a solid level, especially for a guy who missed two years. The truth remains that he would not start at point guard for even half the teams in the Western Conference. Victor Oladipo simply hasn't been a good player as a Rocket, shooting below 40 percent from the field and under 30 percent behind the three point line. At the forward spots the Rockets have no one who qualifies as even close to an average starter. Even as well as Wood has shown offensively, he'd be no better than the third best player on any of the top four teams in the Eastern or Western Conference, and several others besides them.

The Rockets' last losing season was 2005-06. Their string of 14 straight non-losing seasons (they went 41-41 in 2015-16) is in dire jeopardy.

Without some lottery luck their immediate future beyond this season isn't bright either. If they can't move Wall or dump Eric Gordon's contact, those two guys and Wood on the roster mean the Rockets can't get close to salary cap space available to bid on even the lowest level maximum contract free agents.

The Rockets retain their first round pick if it is in the top four of this summer's draft. If it is not they get the lowest of their own, Oklahoma City's, and Miami's first rounders. That is probably a non-lottery Heat pick. The first draft pick element of the James Harden trade likely turns out to be worthless: the Rockets right to swap first rounders with the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets have been slogging along in relative mediocrity, but no one thinks they will finish below the Rockets in the standings.

College hoops

Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, Temple, Syracuse, UCLA, Notre Dame, St. John's, Indiana, Cincinnati, Utah, and Arizona. Those are the 13 college basketball programs with the most wins all-time. None of the 13 are in the current AP Top 25.

Texas Tech moved up to number seven on Monday, one spot ahead of the Houston Cougars. The Red Raiders Tuesday home loss to West Virginia means that Tech is ranked seventh in the nation, but sits in just sixth place in its conference. Half of the Big 12's 10 teams are in the top 15 nationally.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Brrr. Cold around here. Cold as the Rockets' shooting too many nights.

2. The Daytona 500 is Sunday. I always preferred Daytona to Indy. Go Richard Petty!

3. Best fruit named athletes: Bronze-Darryl Strawberry Silver-Deron Cherry Gold-Bob Lemon

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The Texans can address receiver in the NFL Draft. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Houston Texans traded away Brandin Cooks to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday for a 2023 fifth-round pick and a sixth-round pick in 2024.

Cooks’ move, while not eye-popping from a draft capital standpoint, opens the door for the Texans to pursue a receiver with one of the draft picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. Houston has been known for having a top receiver for most of the franchise’s history. First with Andre Johnson and then with DeAndre Hopkins.

Now with the top spot up for grabs, here are some prospects at receiver the Texans could pursue with either the 12th overall pick or even into the second and third round of this year’s draft.

Quentin Johnston — TCU

Johnston has all the characteristics of a star receiver. He is 6 feet, 3 inches and weighed 208 pounds at the NFL Combine. The Temple native recorded a 40.5-inch vertical jump and 11-foot, 2-inch broad jump at the combine as well.

He hauled in 60 receptions for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns for the Horned Frogs in 2022 in a year that culminated in the College Football Playoff championship game. Johnston caught four passes for 139 yards in the Big 12 Championship Game, and he also caught six passes for 163 yards against Michigan in the College Football Semifinal.

Johnston’s biggest concern heading to the next level is his ability to make catches in traffic. In TCU’s College Football Championship Game against Georgia, he was held to just one catch for three yards. In order to reach his potential, Johnston will need a lot of development that will fall on the shoulders of Ben McDaniels and Bobby Slowik if taken by Houston.

Jordan Addison — USC

The former Trojan and Pittsburgh Panther caught at least 59 passes in every season of his collegiate career.

His best year came as a sophomore when he caught 100 passes for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2021. Addison had 875 receiving yards and eight touchdowns with Caleb Williams under center in 2022 for USC.

Addison, who stands at 5 feet, 11 inches, ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash, had a 34-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot, 2-inch broad jump at the combine. The Frederick, Maryland native’s consistency in college makes him an attractive pick for Houston that is going to be looking for versatile players at the receiver spot for the next signal caller under center.

Some of Addison’s drawbacks include his ability to win battles off the line of scrimmage when facing against physical corners. Similar to Johnston, he likely will not be there in the second round when the Texans pick, so if Houston really likes him, it might take the 12th pick.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba — Ohio State

Smith-Njigba could be the biggest question mark of the draft at the receiver position. After having a productive 2021 season for the Buckeyes, in which he caught 95 passes for an eye-popping 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns, he missed most of 2022 with a hamstring injury that limited him to just three games.

He stands at 6-foot-1-inch and 196 pounds, and he had a 35-inch vertical and 10-foot-5-inch broad jump at the NFL Combine. While excelling at the slot receiver position in 2021, having only one strong season is a big cause for concern.

If he is available after the first round, the Texans should consider taking a chance on him. If he is not, he might be too much of a question mark to take in round one.

Tank Dell — Houston

In a season that was defined by a lot of inconsistency from the Houston Cougars, the one constant was Dell at the receiver spot. Tank Dell, who’s real first name is Nathaniel but don’t call him that, caught at least five passes in every game for UH in 2022.

Despite being the No. 1 option, and in some weeks, the only reliable option at receiver for Houston due to injuries, Dell consistently produced, which is a trait every team in the NFL should love.

Dell finished the 2022 season with 109 catches for 1,398 yards and brought in 17 touchdown receptions for the Cougars. Tank officially measured in at 5 feet, 8 inches at the NFL combine. He ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash, a 1.49-second 10-yard split and a 10-foot, 1-inch broad jump.

Dell’s biggest cause for concern is his size. If he is still available when the Texans are on the clock at 65, he could be the steal of the draft.

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