No one saw that coming! JJ Watt, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, broke the news himself about signing a two-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals were definitely a curveball, considering both of his younger brothers played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Cards weren’t on the radar to sign the ferocious defensive end.
Watt, 31, signed a two-year contract worth $31 million with $23 million in guaranteed money. The Cardinals went 8-8 last season and bubbled the playoffs.
Watt appeared in all 16 games in 2020, but he’s missed 32 games since 2016 due to numerous injuries. In his first five seasons, the reliable Watt didn’t miss any games.
In 128 games with the Texans, Watt recorded 101 career sacks and was named an All-Pro five times.
The Cardinals currently have the top pass-rusher in the NFL. Since 2012, Chandler Jones racked up 97 sacks for the most in the league. Watt is second on that list with 95.5.
source: me. pic.twitter.com/1Y6okQBUy5
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) March 1, 2021
Phoenix > Houston
The Houston Texans and Watt parted ways two weeks ago after the team agreed to release him. Watt spent 10 seasons with the Texans, who selected him with the #11 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
The Steelers were the favorite to land Watt, according to a prop bet posted by BetOnline. The other favorites included the Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, and Tampa Bay Bucs.
The Arizona Cardinals weren’t even on the list of potential teams. Even the bookies were fooled by this transaction. Kudos to Watt, his agent, and the Arizona Cardinals for their stealth and ability to keep the negotiations a big secret.
The Texans are picking up the pieces after the franchise fell into disarray following the death of team founder and owner Bob McNair in late 2018. They have a new head coach and a new general manager, but still have a disgruntled quarterback who would rather sit out next season than play another snap with the Texans. Deshaun Watson wants to play quarterback for the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, or Carolina Panthers next season. The Texans insist they’re not trading him.
Cards Making a Title Run … Now
Watts signing by Arizona indicates that the Cardinals are serious about making a title run this upcoming season. There’s a rapidly closing window while quarterback Kyler Murray is still on a rookie deal.
Watt joins his former teammate DeAndre Hopkins, who became a Cardinal last offseason in one of the craziest NFL trades in this century. Hopkins lobbied his old teammate to join him in Arizona to pursue a championship together. On his Instagram account, Hopkins said, “Let’s finish what we started.”
The Arizona Cardinals are +3300 odds to win Super Bowl 56, according to the last update by DraftKings. News of the Watt signing didn’t alter the Cards’ odds on the NFL futures board.
The Arizona Cardinals are still the long shot on the board to win the NFC West, which is one of the most difficult divisions in the league. The Rams are favorites to win the NFC West next season at +180 odds, while the Cardinals are +500 odds to win the division.
Last season, the 8-8 Cards finished third in the division behind the Seattle Seahawks (12-4) and Los Angeles Rams (10-6). The Rams also made an all-in move to win the Super Bowl sooner than later. The Rams upgraded their quarterback position after acquiring Matthew Stafford in a trade from the Detroit Lions. Meanwhile in Seattle, Russell Wilson said he’s happy with the Seahawks, but his agent mentioned Wilson would waive his no-trade clause for four teams — the Las Vegas Raiders, New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears, and Dallas Cowboys.