JJ Watt’s very public and short-lived free agency is over, and the five-time All-Pro defensive tackle has chosen to sign with the Arizona Cardinals.
The news was announced by Watt himself on Twitter on Monday morning, as the gregarious lineman posted a photo of himself training in a Cardinals t-shirt.
The Cardinals announced the signing soon after, and Ian Rapaport of the NFL Network announced that the deal is two years and $ 31 million, with $ 23 million guaranteed. Watt, who turns 32 next season, isn’t necessarily the MVP-caliber talent he was at his peak, but he still had the seventh-highest Pro Football Focus rating in his position in 2020 with Houston.
Watt played all 16 games for the Texans last season and had 17 quarterback hits in addition to five sacks. He will strengthen the front line of a Cardinals defense that has grown over the 2020 season, finish in the top 10 of Football Outsiders DVOA defensive metric, and entered the top seven when weighting the last four weeks of the season.
However, the team were much better against the pass than against the run, and because they’ll reclaim the All-Pro Chandler Jones pass, that was likely a goal for general manager Steve Keim and the Cardinals front office. to add size to the front. They get there with Watt, who, in addition to his rushing pressures, made 14 tackles for a loss in 2020.
All in all, a Cardinals defense that has gone from 20th to 10th in defensive efficiency under head coach Kliff Kingsbury and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will have a chance to be even better with returning players and the addition of Watt. Still weeks away from the busy NFL free agency and draft season, Arizona could keep adding.
With Watt reuniting with former Texans teammate De’Andre Hopkins, it’s yet another free agency magic trick for Keim, who is heading into the third year of the Kingsbury-Kyler Murray era. Watt will add that the Cardinals’ defense will be more prolific, likely more flexible and – if all goes well – a bit better.