Arizona Cardinals' J.J. Watt signing among 'riskiest' in NFL free agency in 2021

Jeremy Cluff
Arizona Republic
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The Arizona Cardinals turned heads and created a lot of buzz early in NFL free agency when they signed free agent J.J. Watt.

But one NFL writer is now calling it one of the "riskiest" free agent signings in 2021.

Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox recently took a look at nine signings that are huge gambles this offseason and he led his list off with Watt.

He wrote: "The Arizona Cardinals signed veteran pass-rusher J.J. Watt to a two-year, $31 million deal before the start of free agency. His contract includes $23 million in guarantees. That would be a fair price if Watt were still a top-tier player, but he hasn't been that in a while. Watt produced just nine sacks over the past two seasons and had just 29 quarterback pressures in 2020. The 32-year-old also has a noteworthy injury history, having missed eight or more games in three of the past five seasons."

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The Chicago Bears' signing of Andy Dalton was among the other signings to make Bleacher Report's list, which also included the Los Angeles Rams signing Leonard Floyd and the New England Patriots signing Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, along with some other deals.

Knox questioned the Cardinals signing Watt instead of resigning Haason Reddick, who signed with the Carolina Panthers after Arizona added Watt.

He wrote: "By adding Watt, the Cardinals essentially gave up on re-signing 26-year-old pass-rusher Haason Reddick. While Reddick does carry his own risks, he has the potential to be a five- or six-year contributor."

More:Did Haason Reddick take shot at Arizona Cardinals in Carolina Panthers' comments?

J.J. Watt is excited to get to work in Arizona.

Not everyone sees Watt as such a big risk with the Cardinals, however.

DraftKings released updated Super Bowl odds immediately after Arizona signed Watt and it had the Cardinals going from 50/1 to 33/1 with his signing.

Some NFL insiders and writers have raved about Arizona's move to sign Watt since the announcement was made.

The Big Lead's Kyle Koster wrote about how J.J. Watt can win a Super Bowl with the Arizona Cardinals.


"The knee-jerk reaction has tended to question — either implicitly or explicitly — Watt's motivations and if a financial windfall may be more of a factor than competing for a championship," Koster wrote. "And while the Cardinals are not exactly nearing the summit of the NFL's highest peak, it's not as though they're at the base of the mountain without proper climbing equipment. Arizona was not a playoff team in 2020 but weren't far off, finishing 8-8. Kyler Murray, in his second year, took some demonstrable strides in his development, improving his QBR by more than 11 points and rushing for 819 yards while finding the end zone with more efficiency in his sophomore campaign. DeAndre Hopkins, arguably the best wide receiver on the planet, is returning and will be hungry to succeed with his former Texans teammate by his side once again. Christian Kirk is poised for further breakout, and Larry Fitzgerald is Larry Fitzgerald. Watt will join forces with Chandler Jones and be tasked with getting to the quarterback knowing full well there's a bevy of playmakers in the secondary to capitalize. With the No. 16 pick in the draft, the opportunity for an immediate contributor exists."

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Touchdown Wire's Doug Farrar was also big fan of the J.J. Watt signing for the Cardinals.

He wrote about how Chandler Jones' presence will really help Watt in Arizona and how Watt could push the Cardinals over the top.

"Injuries have complicated Watt’s overall legacy over the last few seasons, and he has amassed just nine sacks in the last two seasons, but as is the case with sack totals in any instance, that doesn’t tell the whole story," Farrar wrote. "In 2020, Watt also had 11 quarterback hits, 29 quarterback hurries, and 34 stops on a defensive line that wasn’t exactly packed with other stars. Last season, the Texans had 33 solo sacks (middle of the pack) and 211 total pressures (sixth-worst in the league), which means that Watt had 21.3% of the team’s total pressures. That will no longer be a problem for Watt; the presence of edge-rusher Chandler Jones alone will give Watt more opportunities to find single teams among blockers and more pressure opportunities. As it turns out, this is kind of a big deal."

How "risky" of a move do you think signing Watt is for the Cardinals?

More:Arizona Cardinals slammed in 2021 NFL free agency grade: 'Big risks, dubious rewards'

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