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J.J. Watt stuns the NFL by heading to Cardinals

Cardinals, J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, Kyler Murray

After weeks of speculation, free-agent defensive lineman J.J. Watt has found a new home with the Arizona Cardinals.

Watt stunned the NFL world on Monday by announcing he would be signing with Arizona. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports the deal is for two years and $31 million, with $23 million of that guaranteed. The Cardinals have already confirmed the agreement.

This is a shocking development given the Cardinals were not seen as one of the top favorites to land Watt.

The Green Bay Packers seemed to have intrigue as Watt’s hometown team. The Pittsburgh Steelers would have offered him the chance to play with his brothers, and other AFC North teams like the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens also seemed like interesting fits. Even this year’s Super Bowl participants might have shown interest in Watt.

Instead, the 31-year-old is heading to the desert, where he rejoins former Houston Texans teammate DeAndre Hopkins on the roster.

Not only is this an aggressive play for the Cardinals, but it is a stroke of genius. Watt lines up opposite Chandler Jones to form the most imposing pass-rushing duo in the NFL. Moreover, Arizona’s defense ranked 25th in yards per carry allowed last season. Watt is one of the best run-stuffers in football, a guy who repeatedly makes plays in the backfield and lines up everywhere along the defensive line.

Although the Cardinals might not have the look of a bona fide contender, they have explosive offensive potential with Kyler Murray leading the way. Arizona also made gains defensively last season, with some talented personnel in the secondary.

Watt could have a transformative impact on the front seven, an impact possibly big enough to make Arizona a legitimate threat in the NFC.