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Dan Bickley

J.J. Watt signing a transcendent moment for Arizona Cardinals

J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans looks on from the sidelines in the fourth quarter of the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on January 12, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

It’s a myth that lightning doesn’t strike twice. It often strikes the same target repeatedly. Especially if the storm originates in Houston and the Texans are involved.

Boom.

The Cardinals needed this jolt of energy as much as they needed J.J. Watt. Where were you when you heard the news?

J.J. Whaaaaaat?

This is a transcendent moment for the Cardinals, almost as good as the arrival of DeAndre Hopkins. It’s not the breaking news we all expected.

For the past few weeks, we’ve been dreading the day a true football legend announced his retirement in Arizona. On Monday, a true football legend instead joined the Cardinals’ defensive line.

This is a luxury item I did not think the team could afford. Not with pressing needs in the secondary, offensive line and wide receiver. Not when Watt is nearly 32 years old and has missed 32 games over the past five seasons.

Watt is also a NFL superstar. He’s a culture creator. He’s one of the most physically dominant defenders in NFL history. He’ll have an immediate impact on a rudderless ship, a team that too often sleepwalks into Sunday afternoon. An undisciplined team that choked away a playoff berth and ranked among league leaders in penalties.

This is also a huge moment for Steve Keim, the general manager who has drafted himself onto a very hot seat in Arizona. But Keim is very skillful at keeping his job. He’s very good at spotting easy marks, preying on both the Texans and Raiders in recent years. And this desperation play is a beauty, creating fresh new buzz while instantly solving the Haason Reddick conundrum.

Remember: Keim declined the fifth-year option on Reddick’s rookie contract, an option that would’ve cost the Cardinals around $10 million in 2021. And then Reddick responded with a great season, including a legendary five-sack performance against the Giants.

Keim couldn’t afford to give Reddick an extension. Even applying the franchise tag would’ve cost the Cardinals over $15 million for one more season of Reddick. So Keim gave that money to Watt instead, eliminating many problems in the process.

This is also a tribute to the recruiting efforts of DeAndre Hopkins, a player who must be feeling tremendous satisfaction over his role in dismantling the current Texans. You wonder if Hopkins is done with his masterpiece just yet. Or if he’s currently doing the same with superstar Deshaun Watson, the Texans’ disgruntled quarterback.

There are reports that Watt based his decision on quality of incumbent quarterback. If that was the No. 1 criteria, how could he really choose Kyler Murray in Arizona over Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay? Or is there another move coming? Could Watson be tempted in joining Watt and Hopkins in Arizona, conspiring to form the NFL’s first super team?

Hopkins would take great pride in that, as well.

Even with Murray as franchise quarterback, Watt checks a multitude of boxes. His pairing with Chandler Jones gives Arizona a pass rush of mythical proportions. His leadership will set a standard and galvanize the room. His charisma and media savvy will fill the room, at a time when Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Peterson might be exiting stage left.

This is the worst of times for Houstonians. Watt was as much a part of their community as Fitzgerald is in the Valley. He follows Hopkins, Chris Paul, James Harden, Jadeveon Clowney and Tyrann Mathieu as marquee athletes who have fled the scene, in way or another.

This is a bold move for Arizona. Luxury purchases always are in these parts. It worked great with Randy Johnson and Kurt Warner. It didn’t work so well with Zack Greinke, Terrell Suggs, Madison Bumgarner or Emmitt Smith. There are no guarantees with aging athletes who come to Arizona, especially the NFL.

But Watt is worth the risk. It’s a statement from the Cardinals that they’re attempting to keep up in the arms race enveloping the NFC West. Watt is our new touchstone, a rally point, the conversation piece around Valley water coolers. We love big-name celebrities in these parts, and the Cardinals just landed one of the biggest to wear shoulder pads.

He’s what every football fan needed in Arizona. A reason to forget 3rd-and-18 and those wretched final games of the 2020 season.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.


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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier