The Arizona Cardinals reportedly have scooped up one of the most attractive free agents in the market this season: J.J. Watt. One of the biggest scoops of the offseason thus far, and one that’s had an immediate impact on NFL betting markets, raising Arizona’s prospects in 2021 across the board.
As per DraftKings, Arizona Cardinal’s Super Bowl 55 odds improved from +5000 to +3000 on Monday when the news broke. As well, their odds to win the NFC and NFC West also improved noticeably: the Cardinals are now tipped at +1500 to win the NFC (down from +2000) and at +500 to win the NFC West (down from +700).
J.J. Watt made the announcement himself, breaking the stunning, unexpected news on social media to the chagrin of his many suitors that were courting his services. By that same token, he also managed to – although inadvertently – crush the hearts of many NFL fans around the country, all of which were dreaming of the future Hall of Fame defensive end to sign with their beloved team.
J.J. Watt Accolades At A Glance
- Seven-time AFC Defensive Player of the Week: 2012 (Week 2 & 15); 2014 (Week 4 & 11); 2015 (Week 11 & 17); and 2018 (Week 12).
- Six-time AFC Defensive Player of the Month ( 2012 (September & December); 2013 (September & December); 2015 (November); and 2018 ( September).
- Five-time Pro Bowl selection (2012-15, 2018)
- Five-time Associated Press First-Team All-Pro (2012-15, 2018)
- Three-time Associated Press and PFWA NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2012, 2014-15)
- Two-time NFL sack leader (2012 and 2015)
- Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year (2017)
- Sports Illustrated Person of the Year (2017)
It would be fair to consider Watt’s move to Arizona a mild surprise; the franchise didn’t fit the popular refrain according to experts nor did it feature prominently in early speculation at multiple top-rated sportsbooks. Heck, some didn’t even have the Cardinals in the frame at all.
Top destinations for Watt based on NFL futures included the Cleveland Browns or the Pittsburgh Steelers (where his two brothers play). The Green Bay Packers also figured in the mix, largely because it would have represented a return to his native Wisconsin. Other destinations included the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Watt made no secret about his desire to play for a contender following his requested release from the Houston Texans this year. The Cardinals are certainly a team that’s ascending in the NFC West and NFC since hiring Kliff Kingsbury and drafting Kyler Murray No.1 overall in 2019. However, the tandem have yet to get into the playoffs or challenge for the divisional title or any other meaningful prize. In their first two seasons, they’ve combined for a 13-18-1 SU mark, with the bulk of the winning gained from a modest 8-8-0 SU mark in 2020.
At the face of it, the addition of J.J. Watt is likely to bolster what was already a reputable defense under defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. The Cardinals were tied for the fourth-most sacks in the NFL last season with 48 and that feat was achieved without stellar line-backer Chandler Jones who missed the last 11 games of the 2020 season. Adding Watt alongside Jones should elevate the pass-rush game, which wasn’t impressive last season – the Cardinals allowed the 12th most passing touchdowns and 16th most passing yards.
A Few Career Highlights
- Watt became the fourth-fastest player in NFL history to reach 100.0 sacks by accomplishing the feat in his 120th career game.
- Watt became the first player in NFL history to reach at least 150 career tackles for loss and 100.0 sacks in his first 120 games
- Watt owns Houston’s franchise record for 101.0 sacks
- Watt leads the NFL with 281 quarterback hits and 172 tackles for loss and he ranks second overall in the NFL in sacks since his rookie season in 2011.
- Watt is the only player in NFL history with 20-or-more sacks and 10-or-more passes defended in the same season, which he accomplished twice (2012, 2014)
- Watt has registered 26 career games with multiple sacks, which is the most in the NFL over the last decade, and he’s tied for the fifth-most in NFL history through 128 career games.
Watt is no spring chicken and in a few weeks he will turn 32 years old, which in his position on the defensive side of the ball might take the shine off his value. There’s also the fact that he’s had a rash of injuries in recent seasons, along with several back surgeries that raise questions about his durability and sustainability.
However, Watt brings undeniable experience to the table as the former face of a franchise – an intangible asset that is hard to quantify because it encompasses a list of other subsidiary benefits such as leadership, mentorship, motivation, inspiration, execution, and so on. Watt can be all those things and more for a young team that is garnering a lot of excitement and expectation amongst their fans and the wider NFL sphere.
So, whether Arizona Cardinals will be genuine contenders in 2021 remains to be seen but the initial signs point in that direction. The ripple effect of his imminent move to Arizona evident already with many betting sites. That alone makes them a team to spot and, maybe with a few choice flutters, even a team to bet on in certain markets.