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The Arizona Cardinals ended up winning the J.J. Watt sweepstakes.
The up-and-coming NFC West team agreed to pay Watt a significant amount of guaranteed money over a two-year deal, meaning the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year won’t be returning home to play in Green Bay.
Here’s why the Packers weren’t the team to sign Watt, with some accompanying thoughts:
– Money talks. It always does. Watt was going to make $17.5 million in Houston in 2021. His new deal in Arizona ensures he’s not losing out on any money. Watt is 32 and signing what could be his last big deal, so money was always going to be important. However, the financial part was a major roadblock for the Packers, who are still over the projected salary cap floor. Hometown discount? No chance.
– The Packers really couldn’t pay Watt $15.5 million over a two-year deal unless they wanted to make drastic moves against the salary cap. And the $23 million guaranteed ensured the deal would be far more lucrative in the short term than the Packers could have feasibly afforded.
– The Packers had significant built-in advantages over other teams in terms of signing Watt, but the advantages only applied if offers remained low and comparable. The Cardinals and their $31 million offer squashed all the advantages the Packers would have enjoyed at a much lower price point.
– The Packers didn’t have a coaching connection like Vance Joseph, the Cardinals defensive coordinator who worked with Watt in Houston for three years.
– Don’t blame Watt for taking the money. Did he have a better chance of chasing a ring with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in 2021? Sure. But he found a nice combination of guaranteed money and winning potential in Arizona, where there’s a quarterback on a rookie deal and plenty of talent, including receiver DeAndre Hopkins and edge rusher Chandler Jones. It’s not like Watt signed with the Jets. The Cardinals play in a tough division, but they have a real chance of being a contender next season.
– Watt is still a great player, and the Packers might need to get aggressive to get back to the Super Bowl, but this team has a lot of money committed to players over the next two years. The Cardinals have cap space and the flexibility financially to take on a risky deal. The Packers didn’t. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that.
– Defensive line and edge rusher are big needs for the Packers. This team now has to make decisions on Preston Smith and Dean Lowry, who are set to take up over $22 million of the Packers’ salary cap in 2021.