J.J. Watt, the most accomplished defensive player in Houston Texans history, said on Twitter on Friday morning that he and the Texans are breaking up.
"I have sat down with the McNair family and I have asked them for my release and we have mutually agreed to part ways at this time," Watt said in a 2 minute video.
While this isn't necessarily a surprise — Watt had no guaranteed money left in the final year of his contract and hinted a couple months ago that this day might be coming — it is nonetheless a marker of where things stand for the Texans.
Watt said in November, "I'm not looking to rebuild. I'm looking to go after a championship," and right not it sure looks like the Texans are setting up for a rebuild.
That's significant because if they were fully committed to running it back — trying to prove this year's 4-12 season was the outlier after 21 wins and back-to-back division titles in 2018 and 2019 — they might be giving Watt the hard sell on staying.
They might be trying to convince a player who, although his best days are behind him and he will be 32 soon, still ranked as the 15th-best pass rusher out of 119 in 2020 per ESPN Stats & Info.
Because they would want that player on their team if they wanted to keep another of their brightest — and much younger — star players from pushing even harder on his request to leave as well.
Yeah, here's where I make a bit of a leap but there is logic here. If you wanted to make Deshaun Watson happy and try to repair that relationship, you would probably try to signal to him that you aren't in a rebuild.
Instead, that sure seems like where they are headed. You could try to spin it that the money saved on Watt can be reinvested in the offensive line or skill position players. But that's not what a player sees in the moment.
And once the sentiment of a rebuild starts, players tend to start to leave in waves.
Does that mean Watson definitely will be traded? Not at all. But it feels a little more likely now than it did 24 hours ago, when it already felt like a distinct possibility.
What does that mean if you're a Vikings fan? That depends on how far into the Kirk Cousins trade swirl you want to go.
My new theory, by the way: Cousins is established as an above-average quarterback, but his body of work suggests that he is not a QB that is going to take a team to the next level. He arrived in Minnesota at the helm of a team that won 13 games the previous season, then won eight, 10 and seven games the next three. Not all of that average-ness was his doing, but some of it was.
Cousins is, instead, a quarterback best suited to provide stability to an organization. A team trying to trade for him should not aspire to go from the cusp of the Super Bowl to holding the Lombardi Trophy. So to me, San Francisco doesn't make a ton of sense outside of Kyle Shanahan's professed admiration for Cousins.
A team could, however, aspire to go from subpar to decent — and maybe even make the playoffs — in a pursuit of Cousins.
There aren't a lot of teams who fit that description — or at least not those who don't already have a solid plan with a young quarterback. But there is one very interesting one: Denver.
The Broncos have won an average of 5.8 games the last four seasons, often getting dragged down by the subpar QB play of Trevor Siemian, Case Keenum, Joe Flacco and Drew Lock.
While they say they are committed to developing Lock, there isn't much about his 2020 season that makes you think "QB of the future." As a two-to-three year bridge, and perhaps as an even longer-term solution, Cousins would make a lot of sense in Denver.
The Broncos have the No. 9 pick in the draft. That's a steep price for Cousins, but teams that are desperate for QB stability pay high prices. And if the Vikings could get that pick, plus their own (No. 14 overall), they would be on their way to having the resources needed to acquire Watson.
All of this, of course, remains nothing more than a thought exercise in the midst of a polar vortex. The more time you spend inside in the middle of the winter, the more time you have to dream up scenarios.
But the larger point stands: I think Watt's departure makes it a little more likely that Watson follows him out of Houston and that the Texans start over.
And if that happens, anything is possible.