Turmoil continues in Texas, as the Houston Texans and star defensive lineman J.J. Watt have mutually agreed to part ways, the 31-year-old announced on social media Friday morning.
There were reports of Watt's discontent with the organization during the 2020 season, in which Houston finished 4-12, and NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported in late January that the veteran was "seeking clarity" on his future with the Texans this offseason.
It appears the two sides have found that clarity, and Watt now will become a free agent for the first time in his NFL career.
The 49ers are eyeing depth along the defensive line this offseason after major injuries for both Solomon Thomas and Nick Bosa early in the 2020 season.
But general manager John Lynch and the 49ers' front office are in a salary cap squeeze as the 2021 offseason gets underway. Currently with $13 million in available space (via Overthecap.com), the 49ers have Trent Williams and Jason Verrett standing out as key free agents, as well a potential lucrative extension for star linebacker Fred Warner.
Watt just completed his 10th NFL season, amassing 52 combined tackles, five sacks and forcing two fumbles over 16 games.
One thing working in the 49ers' favor in this situation could be new defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, who was a teammate of Watt's in Houston and got a shoutout from the All-Pro after he was promoted to replace Robert Saleh.
Watt comes from a talented family, as Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro T.J. Watt already has begun recruiting his older brother to join him with the Black and Gold.
The 49ers will be among just about every NFL team in hoping to get a meeting with Watt upon his official release, but it is unclear what his asking price will be in free agency.
His relationship with Ryans certainly could vault the 49ers into contention for Watt's services, but we'll have to see how Lynch elects to proceed early in free agency given the limited cap space he has to work with.