The wait is over. Former Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt has made his decision on where he will play in 2021, and he will not be coming home to Wisconsin, instead signing with the Arizona Cardinals.
Watt’s contract will reportedly be worth $31 million over two years with guarantees of $23 million, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. Watt was the first person to announce his destination, however, with this tweet moments earlier:
source: me. pic.twitter.com/1Y6okQBUy5— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) March 1, 2021
After asking for and receiving his release late in mid-February, the three-time defensive player of the year had plenty of suitors. The Green Bay Packers were among a group of top options that reportedly included teams like the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Tennessee Titans. Pittsburgh currently employs the other two Watt brothers, T.J. and Derek, but their salary cap situation in part made it difficult for them to find a way to bring in the oldest of the trio.
As for the Packers, a tight salary cap situation made it difficult for them to pay Watt his asking price. If the cap for 2021 ends up at its lowest possible point, $180 million, the Packers will need to trim about $12 million from their current roster just to be under the cap by the start of the league year on March 17th. That also does not include deals for restricted free agents like Robert Tonyan and Chandon Sullivan or exclusive-rights free agents such as Allen Lazard.
Ultimately, the price tag for Watt just seemed to be too much for the Packers to handle, particularly the $23 million in guaranteed money. The Packers will play in Arizona next season, as the NFC North and NFC West divisions are matched up with one another on the schedule rotation.
Watt also rejoins a former Texans teammate, DeAndre Hopkins, with the Cardinals. Hopkins was traded from Houston to Arizona last offseason for a package that included running back David Johnson.