NFL Network's Ian Rapoport first reported the Texans intend to release Watt.
The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year posted a video on Twitter to confirm the news, adding the two sides agreed to a mutual parting of ways:
Texans CEO Cal McNair issued a statement about the decision on the team's official website:
"Change is never easy, especially when it involves the ones you love. J.J.'s impact on not only our organization, but the entire Houston community, is unlike any player in our franchise's history. I told J.J. earlier this week that we will forever consider him a Texan. We take solace in knowing that this is not a goodbye but a 'see you soon.' For now, we will build upon the foundation that J.J. created here and forge ahead with our unwavering mission to bring a championship to our city, create memorable experiences for our fans and do great things for Houston."
Texans co-founder and senior chair Janice S. McNair also issued a statement about Watt:
"Simply put, there has been no person in the past decade who has made a greater impact on the Texans organization than J.J. Watt. J.J.'s dominance on the field was unprecedented and resulted in countless moments that will go down in Texans history. To me, what best represents J.J.'s connection to Houston is his tradition of playing catch with the fans before every home game. The number of people who wear #99 jerseys with smiles on their faces totally encapsulated J.J.'s passion for bonding with Texans fans at every possible opportunity. His commitment to the community is unlike any player in NFL history. We are forever grateful to J.J. and his family."
Watt seemed to acknowledge prior to Houston's Week 17 game against the Tennessee Titans that he might not be back with the team in 2021.
"We'll see what happens," he told reporters on Dec. 30. "I don't have any guarantees left in my contact, so something's got to happen one way or another. I'm not sure. There's too many unknowns. I'm looking forward to playing the game on Sunday. We'll see what happens after that."
Despite the uncertainty around Watt's future with the Texans, the expectation around the NFL was that the team would find a trade partner.
Sports Illustrated's Mike Fisher reported on Jan. 30 that opposing teams were planning to present offers to the Texans for the five-time Pro Bowler.
Watt had just one more season on his current contract worth $17.5 million. The Texans won't face any cap penalties by releasing him since there's no dead money left on the deal.
Since being drafted No. 11 overall by the Texans in 2011, Watt established himself as the best player in franchise history. He is Houston's all-time leader in sacks (101) and is one of three players in NFL history to win the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year award three times (Lawrence Taylor, Aaron Donald).