INDIANAPOLIS -- A message for those inclined to panic at the Texans' lack of contract discussions with J.J. Watt so far:
Please remain calm.
Texans general manager Rick Smith said on Thursday the team hasn't started talking to Watt's people yet about an extension, and a big part of why is that there is plenty of time.
Here's how Watt's situation will work. By May 3, the Texans have to decide whether or not to pick up an optional fifth year (2015) for Watt's rookie contract. The value of that contract is based on a variation on a transition tag. Because Watt was the 11th selection, his fifth-year salary would be an average of the top 25 players' salaries at his position, excluding the top three.
I wondered if the Texans would try to call Watt a defensive tackle rather than a defensive end. Salary numbers are significantly different at those positions and Watt is more of an inside rusher. Smith told me on Thursday that while the Texan's haven't even gotten to the point where they're thinking about that, they will most likely consider him a defensive end for those purposes.
The larger point to remember here is that there is plenty of time.
In the next two weeks the Texans will try to work out deals with some of their pending free agents, perhaps like Earl Mitchell and Garrett Graham who Smith mentioned out of the blue this week. They'll prepare for free agency, which begins in two weeks. And right now they're going through combine evaluations.
Making a decision on Watt will conflict with the pre-draft process which lasts from now until May. But it doesn't have to conflict with both pre-draft preparations and free agency madness. Two at a time is plenty.
If the Texans don't pick up Watt's option, they could sign him to an extension this offseason (good idea) or let him hit free agency (very bad idea).
An while an extension for Watt is not the best option for the Texans if you're strictly talking about money, when it comes to the face of the franchise and a guy who's as good on and off the field as Watt, though, you can't only think about money.
After being drafted by the Texans in 2011, J.J. Watt paid attention to a few video clips. He vividly remembers one of a small group of fans booing the selection. He also remembers an interview where a fan said he thought Watt would lead the Texans to a Super Bowl. Recalling that two years ago, Watt said if the Texans win the Super Bowl he wants to find the guy who said that. He wants to thank him and tell him he was right.
A show of faith goes a long way for Watt. It won't diminish his motivation, it'll add to it.