J.J. Watt Escapes Texans’ Dumpster Fire, Signs with the Arizona Cardinals

Josh Belgrad, Sports Staff

Five-time All-Pro Defensive End J.J. Watt announced Monday, March 1 that he will be signing with the Arizona Cardinals. As first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Watt and the Cardinals agreed to a two-year contract worth $31 million total that includes $23 million guaranteed. This signing is the first domino of NFL free agency to fall and sent the media into a frenzy.

Watt, at age 31, is coming off a frustrating season in Houston where the franchise has fallen apart at the seams. Due to the Texans entering the beginning of a lengthy rebuilding process and Watt no longer being the same player he was when he captured his three defensive player of the year awards, the team, and its franchise icon decided to mutually part ways, allowing Watt to reach free agency for the first time in his career. When Watt announced his intentions to join the Cardinals, it shocked many league observers. Arizona was an unexpected landing spot for Watt because he had voiced his intention of joining a Super Bowl contender, and Arizona did not even make the playoffs last season. In his introductory press conference though, Watt mentioned the potential he sees in this team and how much he believes in quarterback Kyler Murray, as well as the defensive pieces Arizona already has on their roster. It is said that former Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins also played a role in recruiting Watt to Arizona after Hopkins posted a picture on Instagram a couple of weeks before the signing of the pair in Cardinals’ uniforms. Hopkins went through a similar departure from Houston just a year ago. Between fellow veteran defensive lineman Chandler Jones, and rising young playmakers Budda Baker and Isaiah Simmons, the Cardinal’s defense is rounding itself out and expected to be a notable threat in the NFC. 

The NFC West is shaping up to continue its reign as one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL and the addition of Watt to the defensive line will help the Cardinals continue to improve their roster and could potentially allow them to take the next step into becoming serious playoff contenders. However, from the Cardinals’ perspective, Watt does raise some question marks with his injury history and recent lack of production. Recently, Watt has been sidelined with injuries to his abdomen muscle, and he tore his pectoral muscle in 2017. Injuries were a large reason why this signing was questioned so highly by analysts, and while Watt did play the entire season last year, he was not very productive when he played. Additionally, $31 million is not an insignificant sum to pay for a defensive lineman on the wrong side of thirty when a team is still several pieces away from contending for a Super Bowl. 

Watt heads to Arizona seeking a fresh start where he can have fun again. If he can stay on the field, he will surely bolster the Cardinals’ defense and allow them to compete for the NFC West title. If injuries continue to riddle Watt though, the risk that the Cardinals took would prove to be a waste of money and set the team back for the next two years. When asked about how much fuel Watt has left in the tank, Watt said “A lot. A whole lot.” It will be interesting to see if a change in uniform proves him right.