Sports | March 1, 2021 2:16 pm

NFL Star J.J. Watt Joining Former Texan DeAndre Hopkins in Arizona

The veteran defensive end is signing a two-year deal with the Cardinals

Former Houston Texan J.J. Watt
J.J. Watt is signing with the Arizona Cardinals.
Carmen Mandato/Getty

In somewhat of a shocker, ex-Houston Texan J.J. Watt is joining his former teammate DeAndre Hopkins in Arizona with the Cardinals.

Previously linked to teams like the Packers, Steelers and Browns, Watt is heading to the desert on a two-year deal worth $31 million that includes $23 million guaranteed, per the NFL Network.

It is a curious signing for both sides as Watt, who will turn 32 later this month, is coming off a season in which he recorded a career-low five sacks (in a season in which he played all 16 games) and doesn’t really seem like he should be the ninth-highest-paid player at his position at this point in his career. (In his defense, Watt ranked 15th out of 119 qualified pass-rushers in pass rush win rate in 2020, according to ESPN Stats & Information.)

While still effective when he is healthy, Watt — who had an interception, seven passes defensed, two forced fumbles and 14 tackles for loss last season — has only played 16 games twice over his past five seasons in the NFL and is always a big-time injury risk.

Adding Watt, who has 101 sacks in his 10 NFL seasons, will certainly help the Cardinals, but pass-rusher was not really a huge need for an Arizona team that will be getting veteran Chandler Jones back from injury and has the option of re-signing linebacker Haason Reddick, who was fourth-best in the NFL in 2020 with 12.5 sacks.

Perhaps the addition of Watt is an indication the Cardinals are readying themselves to move on from Reddick and/or fellow free-agent-to-be Markus Golden, but it is odd the team would choose to roll with the longtime Texan at his age rather than bringing back their former first-round pick.

The signing is also a little confusing from Watt’s perspective as the Cardinals, while decent and exciting to watch thanks to Hopkins and dual-threat quarterback Kyler Murray, are not really a Super Bowl contender and the addition of Watt does not turn them into one.

After a decade in Houston with a Texans team that never made it past the divisional round of the playoffs, it would stand to reason that the three-time Defensive Player of the Year would want to go to a team with realistic championship aspirations. Instead, the five-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time first-team All-Pro is going to a team will probably win its fair share of games but may not even make the playoffs.

It is understandable Watt wouldn’t want to turn down $23 million guaranteed as this is likely going to be his last shot at a big contract, but it seems like winning a championship may not be as important to him as he has indicated in the past.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that I don’t have 10 years left in this league,” Watt said in November. “I personally believe that I do have a few more great ones left in me, but I’m not looking to rebuild. I’m looking to go after a championship, and that’s what I want to do. I’m interested in winning a championship in this league.”

Interested? Sure. Obsessed with? It doesn’t really seem like it.

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