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Watt Now?

Syndication: Arizona Republic Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Background: Oct 24, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt (99) forces Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills (10) to throw the ball away in the first half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-Arizona Republic Nfl Houston Texans At Arizona Cardinals

What a tough blow for J.J. Watt and the Arizona Cardinals. Watt was playing at a Pro Bowl level and was providing spirited leadership on the field.

If the Delphic Oracle informed you during free agency that by signing DE J.J. Watt to a 2 year contract that featured, per -

Contract Notes:

  • $20M guaranteed at signing (signing bonus + 2020 salary + $3.25M of 2022 salary + 2022 roster bonus)
  • Additional $3M of 2022 salary fully guarantees in March of 2022 (injury guaranteed now)
  • $1M bonus + $1M base escalator for 10 sacks in 2021
  • $1M bonus for 10 sacks in 2022
  • No Trade Clause
  • 2023-25 automatically void prior to the 2023 league year ($7.2M of dead cap)
  • 2021 Cap Hit: $4.9M
  • 2022 Cap Hit: $15.9M

...and that J.J. Watt would help re-define the veteran leadership on the team and would help lead the Cardinals to their first 7-0 start since 1974 while captaining a defense that has thus far given up the fewest number of points in the NFL, before suffering a season-ending injury, would you have given the Watt signing your stamp of approval?

My answer is: heck yeah.

The question now becomes —- Watt now?

Unquestionably, J.J. Watt will remain the team’s most charismatic leader. He will continue to try to boost the team’s morale and will work with his teammates to help them take their games to the highest levels.

Watt has already helped his veteran defensive teammates up front to play at a higher level. A quick look at the the PFF grades proves this:

  • 81.4 —- Devon Kennard
  • 79.5 —- J.J. Watt
  • 78.9 —- Markus Golden
  • 76.6 —- Jordan Phillips
  • 73.4 —- Chandler Jones
  • 68.5 —- Josh Mauro

Now, what the Cardinals need from J.J. Watt and the veteran players is for them to keep grooming the younger players. While Zach Allen, Leki Fotu, Rashard Lawrence and Michael Dogbe have shown occasional flashes as playmakers, they need to produce more consistently.

The timing of Watt’s injury, just a mere five days before the trading deadline, could give Steve Keim an opportunity to bolster the team’s talent on the defensive interior.

Potential Trade Targets (from rebuilding teams that might be eager to add draft capital)

  • 79.9 —- Matt Ioannidis (WAS, $2.7M remaining on 2021 base salary)
  • 76.5 —- Poonah Ford (SEA, $500K)
  • 76.2 —- Al Woods (SEA, $640K)
  • 74.7 —- Zach Sieler (MIA, $1.1M)
  • 74.0 —- Shelby Harris (DEN, $1M)
  • 72.7 —- John Jenkins (MIA, $550K)
  • 71.9 —- Folorunso Fatukasi ($1.2M)
  • 67.2 —- Akiem Hicks (CHI, $5.2M)
  • 66.4 —- Maliek Collins (HOU, $1.2M)
  • 63.5 —- Fletcher Cox (PHI, 1.1M)

Free Agents:

  • Geno Atkins
  • Damon Harrison
  • Kawann Short

Tonight’s Defensive Challenge:

In light of Davante Adams, Allen Lazard’s and J.J. Watt’s absence, the Packers are likely to run a steady diet of 12 personnel (2 TEs) tonight to try to establish their running attack with Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon, which would set up Aaron Rodgers for his play action game. The Cardinals are going to need an inspired performance from their front seven and sticky coverage from the secondary, with J.J. Watt urging them on from the sidelines.