The Drive with Jody Oehler

The Drive with Jody Oehler

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JJ Watt Is a Cardinal - What's Next?

So March 2021 is off to a good start. Shocking the football world, JJ Watt announced that he will be signing with the Arizona Cardinals on Monday morning.

Watt is a three time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a five time All Pro, a five time Pro Bowler and recipient of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in 2017. He's also second in the NFL in sacks since the year 2012 with his new teammate occupying the top spot.

Watt has also missed 32 games over the last five NFL seasons which includes large chunks of the 2016, 2017 and 2019 seasons with a variety of injuries.

Last year, Watt appeared in all 16 games for the Texans notching five sacks and registering a PFF grade of 75.1, his lowest graded full season of his career.

Many fans want to know right now, did the Cardinals overpay for an aging, injury prone superstar?

My answer? Who cares. I don't know what JJ Watt is going to do on the football field for the Cardinals in six months. I don't know how many games he will play, at what level he will produce or whether he will ultimately help carry the defense to the next level. I suspect his presence will pay big dividends on the defensive line and his leadership will help fill the void created by a head coach who has struggled to establish his leadership on the sideline.

But what I do know is that the entire NFL wanted JJ Watt. That every single Super Bowl contending team would've wanted JJ Watt to announce his arrival to their team. I know that the final month of the Cardinals season ended so poorly that it swallowed up any positive gains during the first 10-12 weeks of the season and that JJ Watt signing here jumpstarts this franchise once again. I know that when a player as respected as JJ Watt is making a choice of what franchise to commit to for the first time in free agency in his career and picks the Arizona Cardinals, there's almost zero downside.

But its already been a few hours, what's next for the Cardinals now that they are Houston-west once again?

Here are the next three steps for the franchise as I see them:

1. Re-sign Patrick Peterson

  • The impending UFA of Patrick Peterson takes on a whole new level of urgency for the Cardinals. Its' a barren market for corners in free agency and unless the Cardinals plan on spending some precious draft capital to land a top flight CB via trade, they can't afford to let P2 walk. The only thing that can undo a potentially ferocious pass rush is an equally inept pass defense. P2 might not be a true lockdown corner but he's better than just about anyone else out there.

2. Take Your Time with OLB

  • Tagging Haason Reddick feels too expensive after splurging on Watt but that might be ok. If Reddick wants to come back on a one year deal, start opposite Chandler Jones and rush the passer with JJ Watt and Jordan Phillips, the Cardinals could still pay him a decent amount. But if he's seeking more than the Cardinals are comfortable with, the Cardinals will have choices. With the personnel they have on board already, plenty of veteran free agent pass rushers will be chomping at the bit to restore their market on the Cardinals pass rush. Hell, some combination of Devon Kennard, Markus Golden and Dennis Gardeck might be enough to still be one of the best quarterback harassing units in the league. The Cardinals now have most of the leverage with their former first round pick.

3. Be Very Aggressive with One Year Deals

  • The Watt signing signals an all in approach to the upcoming season. The Cardinals should aggressively use his presence to recruit other veterans to fill out their roster. Before Watt signed, it felt like the flood of cap casualty veterans would mostly be headed to Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Buffalo or Cleveland. Now, Phoenix jumps to the top of the list. The Cardinals can create additional cap space, lure more prove it veterans and avoid costly long term salaries that might otherwise hamstring them in future years. Win-win for Steve Keim's Last Charge.

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