Retired NFL pass rusher JJ Watt open to returning to Texans only if DeMeco Ryans ‘absolutely needs it’

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J.J. Watt spent a decade with the Houston Texans. He left Houston in 2021 and joined the Arizona Cardinals, before retiring from football after the 2022 season.

Watt finished his NFL career strong, recording 12.5 sacks in 2022. Watt celebrated his 35th birthday in March, and currently works as an NFL analyst for CBS.

The Texans have had some underwhelming seasons in the past few years, but rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud and first-year coach DeMeco Ryans helped lift the team to the playoffs last season. 

The franchise bolstered its roster this offseason by pulling off a few splashy moves in the free agency and trade markets. Now that the team appears to be set up to contend, Watt is open to returning to Houston – under one condition.

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J.J. Watt walks on the field

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt walks on the field before the Cincinnati Bengals game in Houston, Dec. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith, File)

Ryans and Watt were teammates in 2011. The retired Watt said he would consider putting his Texans uniform back on for one more season if his former teammate really needed him.

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“I’m a very fortunate, lucky man. I have a beautiful wife, I have a beautiful son. I’ve had 12 great years in this league and I’m very thankful to have walked away healthy and playing great,” Watt told Houston’s SportsRadio 610. “I told DeMeco last year, I said, ‘Don’t call unless you absolutely need it, but if you ever do call, I’ll be there.’ And he knows not to call unless he absolutely needs it.”

DeMeco Ryans coaches

Head coach DeMeco Ryans of the Houston Texans on the sidelines during the preseason game against the Saints at Caesars Superdome on Aug. 27, 2023, in New Orleans. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

But Watt also made it clear that his offer has an expiration date.

“This is the last year I’ll tell him that, because I’m not going to keep training the way I’ve been training, but he knows that if he ever truly does need it, I’ll be there for him.”

The Texans signed pass rusher Danielle Hunter to a two-year contract in March. Hunter joins a defensive line that already features the 2023 NFL Rookie of the Year Will Anderson Jr. and former first-round draft pick Derek Barnett. 

JJ Watt listens

TV analyst J.J. Watt before Super Bowl LVIII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium on Feb. 11, 2024, in Las Vegas. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Of course, injuries could open the door for a potential Watt comeback. But, Watt said his former team has a “good group” of players heading into the 2024 campaign. 

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“I don’t anticipate that happening,” Watt said about whether he expects to get a call from Ryans. “They’ve got a very good group.”  

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