The Houston Texans appear destined for a rebuild, with a new coach and general manager along with the potential departure of star quarterback Deshaun Watson, who reportedly has demanded a trade.
J.J. Watt has been the franchise's star for a decade, but as he seeks clarity on his future in Houston, could he be a potential trade target for the 49ers?
Watt, who turns 32 in March, isn't quite the same player that was churning out double-digit sack seasons with ease, but still was a productive player for the Texans in 2020, finishing with five sacks, 14 tackles for loss and an interception and fumble recovery apiece over 16 games.
The five-time All-Pro is entering the final year of a contract that is set to pay him $17.5 million. Watt likely wants to play for a winner at this stage of his career, as Houston is just 3-5 over eight playoff games with Watt on the field.
If Texans new general manager Nick Caserio goes back on what he stated publicly last week and end up ceding to Watson's trade demands, the organization clearly would be headed for a full rebuild. It's hard to imagine Watt would be interested in being part of another roster starting over from scratch.
Back in November, it was reported by CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora that there was a "virtual certainty" Watt would be traded this offseason, and that was well before Watson's apparent discontent became public.
Watt could be a great fit on a 49ers defensive line already loaded with talent, and the veteran could be a great mentor for Nick Bosa as he returns to action following a torn ACL early in the 2020 season.
With full expectations of returning to championship contender status, the 49ers could be an appealing destination for Watt. But with Dee Ford already adding $20 million-plus cap hits in each of the next three years, and Bosa likely getting an extension in the next year or two, would general manager John Lynch want to bring on another $17.5 million into what already is a complicated cap situation this offseason for the 49ers?
Lynch has made it clear he doesn't want to part with significant draft capital unless it is a perfect scenario. Acquiring Watt almost certainly would take at least a second or third-round draft pick, if not multiple selections. The 49ers should have 10 total draft picks in 2021, but just two fall inside the top 100 selections.
It isn't a likely scenario by any means, but is something to keep an eye on as the offseason progresses. If the 49ers managed to convince a team to take on Ford's bloated salary for the next few years, that would open up enough capital to bring in a player like Watt.
A lot of moving parts would need to come together to make a move like this possible, and the 49ers have enough to worry about this offseason. Watt is much more likely to end up elsewhere by the start of the 2021 season, if Houston even decides to part ways with the star.