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JJ Watt Confirms NFL Retirement; Cardinals, Texans Star Won 3 DPOY Awards in 12 Years

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 27, 2022

Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt walks on the field during an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Cleveland. The Cardinals won 37-14. (AP Photo/David Richard)
AP Photo/David Richard

Arizona Cardinals star J.J. Watt announced Tuesday he's retiring from the NFL after the 2022 season:

JJ Watt @JJWatt

Koa's first ever NFL game. <br>My last ever NFL home game. <br><br>My heart is filled with nothing but love and gratitude. It's been an absolute honor and a pleasure. <br><br>🙏🏼 <a href="https://t.co/wXbDUcHM8B">pic.twitter.com/wXbDUcHM8B</a>

TJ Watt @_TJWatt

<a href="https://t.co/alM0DjDzYr">https://t.co/alM0DjDzYr</a> <a href="https://t.co/zCQ8gAq2WS">pic.twitter.com/zCQ8gAq2WS</a>

Watt has 9.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss and 33 total tackles through 14 games this year. He soaked in the scene following Arizona's 19-16 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday:

Cameron Cox @CamCox12

<a href="https://t.co/FdMzx6AJpJ">pic.twitter.com/FdMzx6AJpJ</a>

The 33-year-old got off to a blistering start when he entered the NFL in 2011. Through his first five years, he was a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, a four-time All-Pro and led the league in sacks twice. His three DPOY nods are tied for the most all-time with Lawrence Taylor and Aaron Donald.

Thanks to a series of injuries, his career has taken a turn since then.

Having already undergone offseason back surgery, Watt only made three appearances in 2016 before he required another back procedure.

That was the beginning of a trend for Watt. From 2016 to 2021, he appeared in 55 out of a possible 97 games.

Most recently, Watt battled multiple injuries before his first year with the Cardinals ended after seven games. He had 16 tackles, one sack and 10 tackles for loss in his limited time on the field.

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

How serious does an injury have to be to sideline <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AZCardinals?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AZCardinals</a> DE JJ Watt? Sources say he actual tore his labrum, his bicep, and his rotator cuff — and dislocated his shoulder. Watt was playing some of his best football and helped change the culture for the undefeated AZ team.

While he didn't boast the kind of longevity some elite pass-rushers enjoyed—his 111.5 sacks rank 26th all-time—the five-time Pro Bowler is a near-lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Pro Football Hall of Fame @ProFootballHOF

Following <a href="https://twitter.com/JJWatt?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JJWatt</a>'s announcement that he will retire after this season, we can confirm that he'd first be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2028. <a href="https://t.co/OQt6sOf66P">pic.twitter.com/OQt6sOf66P</a>

Pro Football Reference gives him a Hall of Fame Monitor score of 126.00, which is fifth-highest among defensive ends. The four players ahead of Watt have all been enshrined in Canton, Ohio.