The Houston Texans will need to find a new voice and heartbeat for the franchise. Defensive end JJ Watt has signed a two-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals that could see him earn $31 million ($23 million guaranteed) over that time.
Watt will be reunited in Arizona with former Texans teammate, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, as well as the former Houston defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
The deal was announced yesterday by Watt himself in typically understated fashion using a Tweet of him working out in a Cardinals t-shirt.
source: me. pic.twitter.com/1Y6okQBUy5
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) March 1, 2021
Priced Out Of A Deal?
While Cardinals were reckoned to be just under the salary cap for the 2021 season, the move for Watt means that they will now have to make some adjustments to get under the cap.
However, with projections that they are around $2.4 million over the cap, after the signing of Watt, those adjustments shouldn’t be too hard for Cardinals fans to take.
However, the $23 million guaranteed and potential $31 million salary for two-years was probably one of the reasons why a number of teams linked with Watt didn’t follow up that initial interest.
While the Steelers were a hot tip due to Watt’s two brothers playing in Steel city, the fact the Steelers are over the cap means that any deal wasn’t likely. Another landing spot in Tennessee with the Titans was also unlikely once Watt’s financial demands were known.
The Cardinals are coming off an 8-8 season in the NFC West were two defeats in their final two games saw them miss out on the playoffs.
However, Cardinals fans will be excited to see Watt paired with Chandler Jones in what could be one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL.
Welcome to the Valley, @JJWatt!
We have agreed to terms with J.J. Watt on a two-year contract.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) March 1, 2021
Since 2012, Arizona defensive end Chandler Jones leads the NFL with 97 sacks in that period. Watt has 101 career sacks in a career that started in 2011 and which has been beset with injury issues, especially in recent seasons.
While Watt and Jones are on the field, they will certainly be an elite pass-rush duo and one that should massively improve that aspect of the Cardinal’s defense.
Most sacks in the NFL since 2012:
1. Chandler Jones (97)
2. JJ Watt (95.5) pic.twitter.com/JYUREutdaP
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) March 1, 2021
However, Watt’s injury history will be a concern for fans. After starting all 16 regular season games in his first five years with the Texans, in the next five he only started all 16 games twice (in 2018 and 2020).
Since 2016, he has missed 32 games through injury and even in the seasons when he has been an ever present, he has often been carrying at least one, if not several, minor injuries. They all take a toll on the body and mind.
Alongside those injuries, there has also been a downturn in production from Watt too. Last season, despite playing 16 games, he managed just five sacks for the Texans and 14 tackles for a loss.
This compares with his best ever season in 2012, when he landed 20.5 sacks and 39 tackles for a loss.
Will Watt Make The Cardinals A Contender?
The NFC West is certainly looking like being one of the toughest divisions in football next season. The Seattle Seahawks will still be very strong, the Los Angeles Rams have now got Matthew Stafford as quarterback while San Francisco 49ers are just two years off a Superbowl appearance.
Add to that an 8-8 Arizona Cardinals team that now has two superstar defensive ends and this division looks like being one of the toughest to qualify from in the NFL.
Even without Watt, the Cardinals will likely have been in contention for the playoffs next season. With him, they could well make that step up having only just missed out this year.
However, as with everything with JJ Watt, it all depends on whether the star can stay fit and contribute to the team. If he can, then the Cardinals could well be flying into the playoffs next season.