J.J. Watt agrees to two-year contract with the Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. — J.J. Watt has agreed to a two-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals.

The team announced the deal with the free-agent edge rusher on Monday. Watt was released last month by the Houston Texans, for whom he won three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards.

The 31-year old Watt has been one of the NFL’s best players for a decade, but asked out of Houston, which is undergoing a roster upheaval. Watt joins another former Texans star, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, in Arizona. Hopkins was acquired by the Cardinals in a one-sided trade a year ago.

Watt started all 128 games in which he appeared in the past 10 years after entering the league as Houston’s first-round selection, 11th overall, in the 2011 draft out of Wisconsin. In 2017, he was selected as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for his work in helping Houston recover from Hurricane Harvey. He was the league’s top defensive player in 2012, 2014 and 2015.

Bears fans hoped Watt would consider Chicago because his wife Kealia plays soccer for the Red Stars. But that was more wishful thinking than practical analysis.

The Bears will be in a salary-cap crunch and seem to be set on edge-rushers, particularly on passing downs. Khalil Mack has a $26.6 million cap hit in 2021, with $16 million of his contract already guaranteed this year. Fellow outside linebacker Robert Quinn has a $14.7 million cap hit in 2021, with his salary fully guaranteed. Akiem Hicks — who, unlike Watt, is an interior lineman — has a $12 million cap hit next year.

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