Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said the franchise is “working hard” to complete a contract extension with quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Watson, a first-round pick in 2017, is officially eligible for a contract extension for the first time. That window opened at the official start of the NFL league year in March.
“Deshaun is a great player, an even better person, and we want him here for a long time,” O’Brien said on Friday. “… I know that we’re working hard. We’re not going to really talk about it in the media, but obviously we feel so strongly about him and the future of him in this offense, in this organization, and we want him here for a long time.”
Watson was drafted 12th overall in 2017, two picks behind Patrick Mahomes, who went to the Kansas City Chiefs.
He’s due to make $4.4 million in 2020, but the tag to keep a prime quarterback has gone up exponentially in the past year.
Russell Wilson of the Seahawks was the highest-paid passer in the NFL at $35 million per season before Mahomes’ monster 10-year deal worth up to $503 million with Kansas City earlier this month.
Watson’s deal could be further impacted as other quarterbacks approach long-term contracts, including Dak Prescott with the Dallas Cowboys. He will play the 2020 season on the franchise tag.
“My situation, and I don’t want to say anything too crazy, is different than his,” Watson told former NFL quarterback Michael Vick. “Signing a deal for 10 years, you know, I have to speak with my agent on that. Sit down and think, ‘What do I want in my career? Where I want to be for a long period of time?’ I love Houston, I love the organization, I love the teammates and all the players, but all that stuff is always changing.”
The Texans confirmed reports in April that preliminary contract talks with Watson’s agent were held. But O’Brien, who is de facto general manager in Houston, wouldn’t address the state of negotiations entering August.
“Respectfully, we’re not going to talk about contracts in the media, but we obviously have stated [that] we have so much belief in Deshaun,” O’Brien said Friday. “We love Deshaun. We want him here for a long time, but we’re not going to negotiate contracts or do anything like that in the media. We’ll keep that between us and Deshaun’s representatives. He’s here, he’s excited and we’re excited about the season.”