The Houston Texans won the AFC South in 2017, and they did it with defense. The Texans finished first in defense during the regular season, despite losing their most valuable defensive player at the beginning of the year. J.J. Watt reinjured his back in October and was placed on injured reserve, ending his season after just three games.
If all goes well, Watt should be on track to return for the start of next year. Each of the previous two seasons, Watt has attempted to play through injuries. Both times it exacerbated the injury and required surgery. By shutting Watt down for the first time in his career, the Texans can make sure he heals properly and comes back at full strength.
Without him, the Texans defense has matured into one of the most balanced fronts in the NFL. Jadeveon Clowney has come into his own as a pass rusher, and linebackers Whitney Mercilus and Benardrick McKinney have combined for 13.5 sacks. All three were named to All-Pro teams.
Now take the number one defense, and add a pass rusher worth $100 million. That’s what will happen when Watt comes back from surgery. Watt signed an eight-year contract in 2008 that topped out at $108.88 million, with over $51 million guaranteed.
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