TEMPE, Ariz. – As teams continued to court JJ Watt during his 16-day stint as a free agent, the three-time All-Pro pass rusher said all signs were pointing to the Arizona Cardinals, with whom he signed a contract. two-year contract on Tuesday.
He chose the Cardinals Monday from a pool of “four or five” finalists after aggressive drafting by Arizona. Watt said he “certainly came close” when he made his final decision, which he described as “difficult.”
“I give them credit; they attacked from every angle,” Watt said of the Cardinals’ drafting during his introductory Zoom press conference on Tuesday. “There was, I think, [general manager] Steve [Keim] Y [owner] Miguel [Bidwill] and everyone did a great job, I mean there were players, coaches, non-football people who came up and were in my ear trying to convince me to come here and tell me all the good things. about that, and not just on the field, but also sending me photos of Paradise Valley and everything off the field.
“So his recruiting speech was loud and heavy, but, at the end of the day, I said to my wife, you know all the signs kept pointing toward Arizona, and in my short time here on the ground, I can tell you that I’m absolutely satisfied and couldn’t be happier with my decision. “
Watt, who turns 32 on March 22, said “there is a lot of exciting stuff going on here in Arizona,” specifically mentioning the “young and extremely talented Cardinals quarterback who can do great things.”
Kyler Murray was one of the reasons Watt cited for signing with the Cardinals. Watt texted Murray Monday: “I’m here because I believe in you.”
– Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) March 2, 2021
Murray tweeted a photo from when the two first met in July 2015 at an event where Murray was named Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year.
“It’s pretty wild to be on the same team now,” Watt said. “But yeah, I’ve obviously seen his career. He’s had an incredible career. He’s an incredible athlete, and what he’s been able to accomplish, he’s been a winner at every stage of his life, and that’s not a coincidence.
“You’re a winner because of the way you work and because of the aura that you put out and because of the talent that you have, and I think he has all of those things and he’s going to keep winning and keep winning. To be successful.”
Watt also said meeting with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, his teammate with the Houston Texans from the time Hopkins was drafted in 2013 until he was traded after the 2019 season, played a role in the Cardinals winning the Watt draw. . Like Vance Joseph, the Cardinals defensive coordinator who was the Texans’ defensive backs coach for Watt’s first three years in the NFL.
Watt said Joseph has a defensive scheme similar to the one Watt played with Wade Phillips in Houston, “which is a scheme that I’m very familiar with and very comfortable and excited to play with.”
The Cardinals announced Tuesday that Watt will wear number 99, the same number he had with the Texans. The number was retired in honor of Marshall Goldberg, who played for the Chicago Cardinals from 1939 to 1943 and again from 1946 to 1948 after his career was cut short with a stint in the Navy during World War II, but the daughter of Goldberg, Ellen Goldberg Tullos, gave Watt permission Tuesday to use the number.
Watt was unaware the number was retired when he selected the Cardinals and saw that no one had issued it during a quick roster recap. One of his friends from high school broke the news and told him about Goldberg’s story, prompting Watt to start looking for other numbers. But when Watt woke up Tuesday morning, he read a report from TMZ, who had spoken with Tullos. Watt then called Tullos to hear for himself that he could use his father’s number.
Watt hoped that a by-product of his use of the Goldberg number would be that his name, history, and legacy would become more widely known. Watt also offered to donate to the Marshall Goldberg Fund for Traumatic Brain Injury Research.
Watt thanked the Goldberg family via Twitter and also spoke about what the family’s blessing meant at his press conference.
I want to thank the Goldberg family for their kindness in offering me the opportunity to wear number 99 in Arizona, which was previously retired in honor of Marshall Goldberg.
– JJ Watt (@JJWatt) March 2, 2021
“We had a great conversation,” Watt said. “She was super sweet. She said she thinks her dad would be honored and she thinks her dad, he was all about the players, so she said she thought he would want me to wear it.”
“So, I am very honored and touched that they thought of me that way and that I can do that, so I told him that I would do everything in my power to honor him and make him proud and proud of his legacy.”