Perhaps the NFL’s most dominant defensive force has announced where he will be taking his talents this fall.
Former Houston Texans defensive end JJ Watt agreed to a 2-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals yesterday in a move that was highly anticipated around the league.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the deal will be worth $31 million, $23 million guaranteed. Watt’s previous deal left him in the final year of his 6-year, $100 million contract in Houston.
The news came nearly three weeks after Watt and Houston mutually agreed to part ways, per Watt’s request.
Watt broke the news himself on his Twitter account before the Cardinals press release came out.
source: me. pic.twitter.com/1Y6okQBUy5
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) March 1, 2021
He was also seen with Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell, who personally flew a private plane to pick up Watt and his wife for their first visit to Phoenix.
pretty convenient when the owner is also a pilot…
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) March 1, 2021
Watt, a five-time First-team All-Pro selection and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, twice lead the league in sacks as the anchor to Houston’s defense. He is one of 35 players in NFL history to record 100 sacks; he and Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller are the only active players on the list.
Also a standout off the field, Watt has been lauded for his role as a humanitarian in the Texas Triangle. Watt raised over $37 million in relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey that devastated the region. He earned the Walter Payton Man of the Year and Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year in 2017.
“The city of Houston’s been unbelievable to me,” Watt said in his video announcement of his leaving the Texans. “The connection is special, and I will never ever take that for granted because I know how rare it is.”
Cardinals Taking Flight?
For some, Watt’s move to Phoenix may come as a surprise. He originally was reported to be interested in joining an established contender.
The Steelers, Packers, Bills, Ravens, Titans, and Browns were all among the teams supposedly vying for the 31-year-old.
Watt joins a Cardinals defense that already boasts Pro Bowlers like Patrick Peterson, Chandler Jones, and Buddha Baker.
Home sweet home.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) March 2, 2021
The question seems to be if Kliff Kingsbury’s offense will continue their development behind third-year quarterback Kyler Murray.
Arizona showed promise last season, posting the NFL’s 6th-most yards per game on average. That didn’t necessarily translate to wins with the Cardinals as they finished 8-8 and 3rd in the NFC West.
A solid receiving core in DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Kenyan Drake, and Larry Fitzgerald combined for nearly 3,000 yards last season (Hopkins accounted for over 1,400 of those). More of that for the Cardinals could be big in a division that potentially could lose Russell Wilson as a foe this offseason.
Texas Turnover Turmoil
As for the Texans, Watt’s release and departure was only a short-lived detour from the drama surrounding the future of quarterback Deshaun Watson.
A storm has been brewing in Houston’s front office since his official trade request on Jan. 28. As of today, the Texans organization still has not expressed interest in trading the 25-year-old star.
Watson has reportedly been unhappy with the team’s decision-making and operation for several years and informed new head coach David Culley that he does not intend to play again in Houston.
In a disappointing 4-12 season following their 2019 AFC Divisional Round run, the Texans fired coach Bill O’Brien after a 0-4 start in October. They do not hold a first-round pick in next month’s NFL Draft, and uncertainty continues to swirl in Houston.