Rapid reaction: J.J. Watt signing with Arizona Cardinals shocks folks

Mar 1, 2021, 1:26 PM | Updated: 8:33 pm

In this Sunday Oct. 25, 2020 file photo, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, right, rushes up f...

In this Sunday Oct. 25, 2020 file photo, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, right, rushes up field around Green Bay Packers offensive tackle Rick Wagner (71) during the second half of an NFL football game in Houston. (AP Photo/Sam Craft, File)

(AP Photo/Sam Craft, File)

J.J. Watt is an Arizona Cardinal.

Watt tweeted a photo of himself in a Cardinals shirt on Monday morning and it was announced by the team a short while after.

Reactions from across the NFL erupted.

From our very own Arizona Sports crew, it was a combination of surprise, shock and stunned.

Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo

My first reaction was, honest-to-God, legit shock. With Chris Paul we had a day or two — a week or two really — to prepare ourselves. This was such a blindside hit that you couldn’t even bet on the Cardinals as an option for Watt’s services.

Second, it was the idea of Watt and Chandler Jones and the havoc that can be brought. Then I thought about the money. It’s a lot. I was all for adding Watt at a reasonable price. The $15 million a year he’ll receive is not reasonable, and it’s a high risk/high reward signing that is a sign of the times for the Cardinals. They need to swing big in 2021, and Watt coming here seems to acknowledge that. Then I thought about DeAndre Hopkins and his influence.

But lastly, I wonder at that price who can the Cardinals no longer afford? Haason Reddick? Patrick Peterson? Larry Fitzgerald? Is this a sign that Larry won’t be coming back?

John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo

What a difference six months makes. When Watt’s name came up around the trade deadline in October the Cardinals had zero interest. Where were the Cardinals getting that type of money for an old guy that’s always hurt? That was then, this is now.

Watt, no longer under contract and coming off a year in which he played in a full 16 games after only playing in eight the year before, was worth a look. Although initially Arizona thought that Watt would prefer to take a discount and go home to Green Bay. The Cardinals decided to study him anyway and the must have liked what they saw because today they shocked the NFL — beating out nine teams, mainly the Buffalo Bills, to secure his services for two years.

Cardinals players, including Jones, were on the phone recruiting J.J. to Arizona last week. If healthy this is a great signing. If not, it’s not. It’s kind of that simple. But Arizona does get one of the best defensive players to ever play the game and he is going to be motivated to play well and win.

Worth a shot for sure.

Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta


Pretty deep, huh?

But that was my exact reaction when our producer, Jarrett Carlen, notified me of the tweet of Watt working out in a Cardinals t-shirt surfaced. I absolutely thought the Cardinals (and every other team) would be well served in kicking the tires on a player like Watt — I just didn’t think it would lead to him playing in the desert.

Watt is simply one of the most impactful and dominant players in the history of the NFL, and his presence will be felt tremendously for a team that some felt lacked leadership in 2020.

And let’s face it, pairing him with Chandler Jones in 2021 has a lot of NFL quarterbacks and offensive coordinators quaking in their boots.

Tremendous, culture-furthering signing by Steve Keim and the Cardinals!

Doug Franz, co-host of Doug & Wolf

FIRST REACTION: This isn’t true.

SECOND REACTION: Check for the blue check mark.

THIRD REACTION: What else can we take from Houston? Alex Bregman? Texas BBQ? The spring training home for the Astros (without the trash cans)?

FOURTH REACTION:  If Russell Wilson was worried about his offensive line before, what’s he thinking with J.J. Watt and Chandler Jones on his schedule four times in two years?

Ron Wolfley, co-host of Doug & Wolf

I was blown away by the signing of J.J. Watt. This signing has so many ramifications on the grease board it’s not even funny. But it’s not just the tangible skills J.J. brings, it’s the intangibles of leadership, professionalism and culture.

The only concern I have is that Watt won’t stay healthy. You can say that about any player but Watt is going to be 32 this month, has played 10 years in the league on the defensive line and has missed 32 games in the last five years. The health issue is a real question in regard to this signing because he’s been banged up in three of the last five years.

Having said that, if he stays healthy, this signing provides tangible and intangible benefits that will change the culture in the locker room. And that is the very thing Big Red needs!

Luke Lapinski, host of The Rundown with Luke Lapinski

I remember when Arizona teams were hesitant to sign big name free agents, never won draft lotteries and couldn’t pull off blockbuster trades. That was three years ago, though, and now it’s the complete opposite around here.

Signing J.J. Watt is a statement move. It’s like the Cardinals looked at the Suns, saw Chris Paul’s leadership skills, and decided “we want one of those too”. Is it risky? Well, yeah. At least in the sense that NFL teams only get so much money to spend under the cap, and Arizona does have other pressing needs.

This probably costs you Haason Reddick or even Patrick Peterson, or maybe it means Larry Fitzgerald is leaning towards retiring and some money’s about to be freed up. But it sure is fun. I don’t know how you say no when Watt says he wants to be on your team, plus this falls in line with the unwritten law that says all the Texans’ best players must eventually join the Cardinals.

There’s undeniable upside here. And maybe the best way to compete in a division with Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson (for now, at least) and whatever the 49ers do at quarterback is to just go all-in with your pass rush. Now the rest of the NFC West has to figure out how to block Watt and Chandler Jones at the same time. Good luck with that.

Jordan Byrd, producer for Burns & Gambo and host of Arizona Sports Saturday

I am shocked that the Cardinals and Keim pulled off the signing of J.J. Watt. The Cardinals had to pay over $15 million a year to land one of the most recognizable players in the NFL, but I thought Watt would have been looking for a more ready made contender, or a team with some sort of sentimental value. On face value, the pairing of Watt with Chandler Jones should give opposing teams and quarterbacks headaches, but I am concerned about the durability of Watt and his injury history.

The one thing this move certainly signals to me is that Keim is swinging for the fences in 2021. Keim probably feels the pressure of the Cards playoff drought and the questions surrounding his handpicked head coach. Knowing that this could be a make or break season for the general manager, Keim is pulling out all of the stops and it makes me wonder if we could still see even more bold and dramatic moves coming.

Kevin Zimmerman, editor and reporter for

You felt like there was something to Hopkins’ recruiting pitch and Budda Baker’s vague tweet. Maybe it’s all coincidence.

In any case, Watt sets a tone for an offseason that began with Arizona having seemingly too many holes to fill. Cardinals fans probably didn’t feel super great about next year’s roster with so many key free agents, and honestly, it’s hard now to see the path toward having a strong two-deep defense.

There will be financial casualties to Watt’s huge contract unless a huge chunk of it is somehow pushed to future seasons. Health is an issue for Watt but beyond, as both linebacker spots and cornerback could be thin if free agents like Peterson and De’Vondre Campbell walk. Include front-seven starters Jordan Phillips and Chandler Jones coming off 2020 injuries, and there is a lot of boom-or-bust potential.

On paper at the moment, the front seven gives Vance Joseph  — who has coached Watt in Houston — a ton to work with. Watt and Phillips, both of whom are arguably on bloated contracts, in theory should thrive by playing alongside a diverse set of pass-rushers, from safety (Budda Baker) to inside linebacker (Isaiah Simmons) to outside backer (Jones) to their fellows on the interior. Someone should be freed up.

That’s not even to mention the young d-linemen like Zach Allen, Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence.

Tyler Drake, editor and reporter for

Well that’s one way to kick off the work week!

J.J. Watt instantly boosts Arizona’s defensive front alongside Chandler Jones. Read that over one more time and let that sink in. The NFC West just got a whole lot tougher, folks. Has anyone checked in on Russell Wilson — or any other NFC West QB — yet?

It’s a huge get for a team that should have been playing in the postseason in 2020. The lineman has dealt with injury issues in three of the past five seasons but is still an elite talent — he’s the only player in NFL history to record at least 20 sacks in multiple seasons for crying out loud — and provides another voice in the locker room.

It does beg the question: Who will be the odd man/men out because of the signing? Patrick Peterson and Haason Reddick are two big name free agents in Arizona, and it would appear that this signing means one of their Arizona tenures could be coming to an end unless the team gets very creative with the cap and the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.

And let’s not forget the charitable work Watt has put in over the course of his career. The J.J. Watt Foundation has done countless great things for those in need and provides an impact that may not be seen as much, but is certainly felt throughout the community.

Last but certainly not least, the signing gives Larry Fitzgerald something else to ponder while he’s deciding on his future. It’s not everyday you add a future Hall of Famer to the roster.

Kellan Olson, editor and reporter for

Giddy up! That’s the “immediate” reaction, with the NFC West in mind. The division was looking like an absolute gauntlet before Monday, with three teams entirely capable of winning the division and a fourth (the Cardinals) that wasn’t going to be a slouch, either. Now, the Cardinals slide up and make that three-team discussion include a fourth, right?

I’m guessing a player of Watt’s pedigree will be eager to prove he’s still just about the best at what he does after two uninspiring seasons compared to his high, high standards. Arizona is betting big on him doing that while staying healthy. Credit to them for doing so and increasing their odds for the fight in football’s best division.

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Rapid reaction: J.J. Watt signing with Arizona Cardinals shocks folks