Three-time Defensive Player of the Year award winner J.J. Watt announced on Twitter that he will be signing with the Arizona Cardinals for the 2021 NFL season. The deal is reportedly worth two-year, $31 million, making Watt the ninth-highest paid defensive end in the league.
Watt, who spent 10 seasons with the Houston Texans, asked for a release from the franchise to sign with a team capable of contending for the Lombardi trophy. The 31-year-old was heavily linked with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he could play with brothers Derek and T.J. Watt, but ended up choosing the Cardinals as his destination for the 2021 and 2022 NFL seasons.
The announcement left everyone astonished. Why did Watt sign with the Cardinals, who went 8-8 overall in the 2020 NFL regular season and missed the playoffs?
NFL: Why did J.J. Watt sign with the Arizona Cardinals?
After mutually agreeing to part ways with the Texans, Watt unsurprisingly gained plenty of interest from teams in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, and Buffalo Bills were all reportedly interested in recruiting the five-time All-Pro. The same three teams were listed in a cryptic message on a Peloton profile called 'KJ Watt'. The profile was initially linked to J.J. Watt, but the defensive end clarified on Twitter that he does not own a Peloton Bike.
But why did he choose the Cardinals? The team improved from their 5-10-1 record in the 2019 NFL regular season, finishing 8-8 this past season. Coach Kliff Kingsbury is one of the brightest young minds in the game and he certainly played a key role in recruiting Watt to the Cardinals.
The Cardinals have one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL featuring the likes of quarterback Kyler Murray, Watt's former teammate DeAndre Hopkins and future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald.
The Cardinals' defensive coordinator is former Houston Texans defensive backs coach Vance Joseph. He was part of the team's coaching staff during Watt's first three seasons in the NFL. Joseph's coaching philosophy is akin to Wade Phillips, who was the Texans' defensive coordinator when Watt won the first of his three Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Not only will Watt play in a system that he is quite familiar with, but he will also lineup alongside Chandler Jones, one of the best outside linebackers of the past decade. Since his rookie season in 2012 with the New England Patriots, Jones has the most sacks in the NFL, followed by Watt.
Many expected Watt to sign with a team already built to contend for the Lombardi trophy, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But the Cardinals' two-year, $31 million offer was by far the best that he has received since being released by the Texans.
Watt is certainly a tremendous addition to the Cardinals locker room. But the team does have issues with the interior offensive line along with depth at cornerback and tight end. If the Cardinals can address those issues in the 2021 NFL draft and free agency, they will certainly be one of the front-runners in the NFC.