Arizona Cardinals enter a new class adding J.J. Watt, one of the best of all time

Opinion: Greg Moore writes that Watt makes the Cardinals the talk of the NFL

Greg Moore
Arizona Republic
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Move over Cowboys, Raiders, Steelers and any other legacy NFL franchise with an outsized national fanbase.

The Arizona Cardinals have muscled their way into that class with a series of bold moves, the latest of which adds J.J. Watt, arguably the greatest pass rusher in the history of football.

We’re not going to spend much energy on the Xs and Os of this signing. There will be plenty of time for fans and analysts to argue over strategy and fit and contract and longevity and durability. Each topic represents a valid concern that will be addressed in due time.

Right now, we should recognize how General Manager Steve Keim and franchise owner Michael Bidwill have maneuvered the Cardinals into the spotlight.

More:J.J. Watt signing winners, losers: Cardinals, Texans, Russell Wilson, Chandler Jones, more

A huge addition

Watt is a huge addition, literally — the guy is 6-foot-5 and nearly 300 pounds — and figuratively, since he’s the only player in the 100-year history of the NFL to get 20 or more sacks in multiple seasons.

Watt has gotten to the quarterback 101 times through 128 games. There are only six guys in NFL history with better numbers. Perhaps you’ve heard of a few of them? Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Jared Allen, DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller.

This marks the third off-season in a row that the Cardinals' personnel moves have been the talk of professional football.

Last year, Arizona acquired the best wide receiver in the sport, DeAndre Hopkins.

And two years ago, the Cardinals drafted the game’s most dynamic young quarterback, Kyler Murray.

These are the kinds of guys that magazines and video game companies put on their boxes to sell copies.

But Watt, Hopkins and Murray also are going to sell the Arizona Cardinals by raising the organization’s profile with football players and fans across a landscape that’s decreasingly tied to location and increasingly connected to star power.

The major networks will be all over this move.

Prime free agents will start considering the Cardinals as a wish-list destination.

And fans in no-hope NFL cites will have a new squad to keep an eye on.

More:'Who are you gonna double now?': Cardinals players react to J.J. Watt coming to Arizona

There's no legitimate debate

It’s debatable how Watt will fit with Chandler Jones; that’s a matter of opinion and imagination. (The guess here is that those guys will work together just fine.)

It’s debatable whether Hopkins or Julio Jones or Michael Thomas is the best receiver over the last five years; that’s a matter of value and bias. (It’s Hopkins, though. Just sayin’.)

And it’s debatable whether Murray can put himself on the list of the game’s greatest quarterbacks by acting like Barry Sanders mixed with Brett Favre consistently over a full season; that’s something time will only be able to tell. (And, man, is that evolution going to be fun to watch.)

What isn’t debatable is the legitimacy of these debates.

If there’s value in being the talk of the league, the Cardinals are about to find out exactly what it is.

Keim and Bidwill have crashed a party that has typically invited teams that started making their mark decades ago.

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) sacks Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Houston. Watt, coming off broken knee surgery, has six sacks to tie for NFL lead.

The Cowboys haven’t had an off-season this fun in a long while. Mostly, Dallas fans have been left to wonder how much money team owner Jerry Jones would be willing to pay quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. Important questions, for sure. But are they likely to sell tickets, jerseys or expensive cable subscriptions?  

The Raiders, meanwhile, have a fancy new stadium that most fans haven’t been able to see, but the club’s off-season personnel moves haven’t been nearly as splashy. There was the Antonio Brown drama a couple of years ago, but that was negative attention. Cardinals fans are having conversations that are all good.

And Steelers’ off-seasons have mostly been about concern over whether Ben Roethlisberger will retire, but that’s no bigger of a story than Cardinals fans fretting over Larry Fitzgerald.

It’s not an overstatement to say that the Cardinals have entered a new class thanks to a series of bold moves, including the addition of J.J. Watt.

When fans think of the NFL, they’ll think Cowboys, Raiders and Steelers — but who could argue the reality that increasingly that list has to include the Cardinals?   

More:J.J. Watt reaction: Arizona Cardinals just got whole lot better

Reach Moore at or 602-444-2236.Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @WritingMoore.

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