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Perhaps J.J. Watt just really enjoyed playing with DeAndre Hopkins, or maybe the offer was simply too good to turn down. Whatever the reason, Watt is headed to the desert. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year announced Monday via social media he'll be joining the Arizona Cardinals. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Watt is signing a two-year deal worth $31 million, with $23 million guaranteed. The Cardinals later announced the two sides had agreed to a deal. Watt could have been enticed by a number of different factors, starting with his former Texans teammate who was sent west in a stunning trade about a year ago. He might have also raised an eyebrow at the thought of teaming up with incredibly productive edge rusher Chandler Jones to create a nightmarish duo. If we combined the two's career sack totals, we'd be just two shy of 200. The thought of avoiding frequent double teams by no longer being the sole threat off the edge had to leave Watt salivating, and the two will now join forces to hunt quarterbacks in the NFC West and beyond.
Or perhaps the money was the winner. With $31 million ahead of him and $23 million already in the bag at this point, Watt, who was No. 7 on NFL.com's list of top 101 free agents, will receive a hefty salary and play on a team that very well might be on the precipice of a playoff run. Arizona faltered down the stretch last year and fell short of the postseason, but a few key additions and improvements -- Watt being Exhibit A -- could get them over the hump.
The 31-year-old Watt celebrates his birthday in exactly three weeks, and moving boxes might be coming with the cake. He'll also further cement his place in football history and join the likes of great pass rushers DeMarcus Ware and the late Reggie White as the fourth to register at least 100 sacks with one team, then play for another squad at 32 or younger. Ware and White each won a Super Bowl with their second team, and if the same ends up being true for Watt, he'll have become the face of a legendary run in Cardinals history.
Watt will also join Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Smith as the only players to play for a new team after winning multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards with their old team.
Those three players mentioned are the only in NFL history to reach 100 career sacks in fewer games. The Cardinals are adding a generational talent and will be around to blow up his birthday balloons later this month.
The party will include Kyler Murray, Hopkins, coach Kliff Kingsbury, and a defense featuring a couple of potentially budding stars and the wonderful weather offered by the Phoenix area. Plus, have you seen Kingsbury’s Arizona pad? The real estate market might be right in Watt's wheelhouse.
Whatever the reason, the news is big, and makes the Cardinals a team of focus for the rest of the offseason into the 2021 campaign. When a star like Watt comes calling, even at his veteran age, there's no hiding from the spotlight.