JJ Watt signs with the Cardinals
After tons of cryptic messages, including a fake Peloton biography update, JJ Watt has finally picked his team. The Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals signed Watt to a two year, $31 million deal including $22 million guaranteed. The best division in the NFL, the NFC West, just got better. With that being said, I still don't think the Cardinals have enough to win the division and compete for a Super Bowl.
While the numbers are not official yet, Watt's cap hit should be in the range of 13 to 16 million dollars in 2021. Prior to the Watt signing, the Cardinals didn't have a ton of money so this may be the only big signing of their 2021 free agency tenure. This is important because that means they most likely won't be able to resign a few of their star players. These free agents are guys like: Haason Reddick, Patrick Peterson, and Kenyan Drake. The Cardinals had the fourth most sacks in the NFL last year so this signing does not fill a big hole for them and now Arizona will have to find replacements through the draft.
I believe the Cardinals should have let JJ Watt sign elsewhere and put their money towards building up the offensive line or resigning their key free agents. With that being said, if JJ Watt stays healthy he will secure the middle of their defense. He is one of the best interior pass rushers the league has ever seen and this will have a domino effect in the NFC West. For the 49ers, their priority has to be resigning left tackle Trent Williams. The Seahawks will need to beef up their entire offensive line to protect Russell Wilson from the two players with the most sacks since 2012, Watt and Chandler Jones. The Rams will need to find a replacement for Andrew Whitworth and potentially resign Austin Blythe.
JJ Watt is a dominating presence and I expect him to have one of the best statistical seasons of his career in Arizona. However, the Cardinals defense may struggle the first few weeks. While Watt is a dynamic pass rusher and run stuffer, he lacks gap responsibility. His pass rush moves are hard to stop, but also hard to predict. The Cardinals linebackers will need to play off of him which will be an adjustment. This may be especially difficult for stud young linebacker, Isaiah Simmons who will be entering just his second year in the NFL. Watt should be a beast for the Cardinals, but it may not show off in the scoreboard in the start of the season.
Other teams may be disappointed they missed out on Watt, but these fanbases should look for their money to be spent elsewhere. The four teams I'm focusing on are the Steelers, Browns, Bills, and Packers. Starting with Steelers fans who wanted to see the Watt trio unite. General Manager, Kevin Colbert's focus needs to be on resigning outside linebacker Bud Dupree. The Steelers had the number one defense throughout the first week 11 weeks of the season. In the first 11 games, Dupree had eight sacks and two forced fumbles and the Steelers were undefeated. In the Steelers' 11th victory, they lost Dupree to a torn ACL. After Dupree's injury this defense struggled and the team won just one out of their final six games! Dupree needs to be the priority for the Steelers this offseason. The Browns and Packers can't put all of their eggs into one basket. Signing one defensive star won't fill the holes spread throughout their entire defenses. The Bills are the one team who could have really benefited from signing Watt. This team is one defensive superstar away from being a title-contending team and Watt could have set them over the edge. This offseason, Bills GM Brandon Beane needs to focus on adding depth via free agency and drafting a highly touted pass rusher in the first round.
Overall, the combination of Watt and Jones on the Cardinals defensive line should be terrifying for the 49ers, Rams, and Seahawks. These are two sure-fire hall of famers on the same defense. However, I still think the Cardinals are the fourth best team in this division and need to find a way to build their offensive line and replace their key free agents.