source: me. pic.twitter.com/1Y6okQBUy5— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) March 1, 2021
Ok, I did NOT see that one coming. For some context, my employer, SportsRadio 610, had me put a bracket together to let fans choose where J.J. Watt would play in 2021. The bracket had 16 teams, eight from each conference. The Arizona Cardinals were not even one of the eight teams I thought highly enough of to put on the bracket. (For the record, the station also had me do a 32 person bracket to pick the Texans' next head coach, and it did not include David Culley. The moral of the story — I suck at making brackets.)
So with that in mind, let's get to my rapid fire thoughts on this monumental day in Phoenix (happily) and Houston (dreadfully sadly). Here we go:
This feels as personal as any Watt destination could
I'm sure that there wasn't a part of J.J. Watt's criteria that said "chance to stick it to the Houston Texans" (but if there were, who could blame him?), but man, if he were unintentionally rubbing salt in the wounds by going anywhere, it would be Arizona, right? Now, if you want to watch J.J. Watt play football, and maybe even win a Super Bowl, you have to watch him in a uniform that will be a constant reminder of the worst trade in franchise history. That's a tough price of poker, right there. Watt will be reunited with DeAndre Hopkins, and also with former defensive linemate, Angelo Blackson, as well as Vance Joseph, an assistant on the Texans' staff early in Watt's career and the current defensive coordinator for the Cardinals.
He is going to the fourth best team in their division
Now, that said, if "competing for a Super Bowl" is a key part of Watt's criteria, and outwardly he has said that he wants to play in important games in the postseason, this decision is a little dubious, at best. With the 49ers getting a slew of injured players back on their defense, the Cardinals are probably the fourth best team in an admittedly very strong division. They were 8-8 last season, and that included a Hail Mary win against the Bills. They were pretty abysmal after a 5-2 start, and their head coach is, by far, the least accomplished (and probably last capable) in the division. 2014 J.J. Watt might have been enough to add 2 or 3 wins for a team like the Cardinals. 2021 Watt is still really good, but not routinely game changing, like in his peak years. It's a great signing for the Cardinals, and Watt will undoubtedly enjoy football more in 2021 than he did playing for Bill O'Brien, but a Super Bowl seems to be a long way away.
Money seemed to play a bigger role than some thought it might
The terms of the deal — 2 years, $31 million, with $23 million guaranteed, so we can probably put to bed the rumors from last week over which team was offering Watt over $15 million per year. It was Arizona. That's a lot of money, and Watt never made clear along the way just how crucial money as to this decision, but it would seem safe to assume that it played at least a small role in his decision. And guess what? There is nothing wrong with that. It's HIS decision, not ours, I just would have liked to see him go to a team where ending could feel a bit more "storybook".
The Cardinals have to make a phone call about Deshaun Watson now
OK, now comes the big swing — if you're the Arizona Cardinals, why not see if you can plunge the dagger all the way through the Texans fans' collective torso, and call Nick Caserio about a Deshaun Watson trade? Honestly, if I'm the Texans, I'd be more inclined to listen to a team that has a somewhat established NFL quarterback on a rookie deal, like Kyler Murray, than I would getting a pick to draft Justin Fields. The Texans are not even taking Watson trade phone calls right now, and a trade with the Cardinals would feel like a Hopkins-Watt gut punch times 100, but man, if Steve Keim calls up Caserio and offers Kyler Murray, the 16th overall pick in this draft, and a first round pick in 2022, who says no to that?
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.