Cardinals' Updated Depth Chart, Salary Cap After J.J. Watt's $31M Contract

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2021

FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2021, file photo, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) waves to fans as he walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans in Houston. Watt is gone from the Texans and Deshaun Watson wants out, too. The Texans have been making plenty of headlines this offseason. Not one has been good. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith, File)
Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

The Arizona Cardinals got a major boost to their defensive line Monday with J.J. Watt announcing he was signing with the team. 

JJ Watt @JJWatt

source: me. https://t.co/1Y6okQBUy5

Per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, it's a two-year deal worth $31 million, with $23 million guaranteed. 

Here's a look at the team's updated potential defensive depth chart in the wake of the signing, per Ourlads:

  • DT: Zach Allen; Leki Fotu
  • NT: Corey Peters (free agent); Domata Peko (free agent)
  • DE: J.J. Watt; Jordan Phillips
  • SLB: Chandler Jones; Kylie Fitts
  • ILB: De'Vondre Campbell (free agent); Isaiah Simmons
  • ILB: Jordan Hicks; Tanner Vallejo (free agent)
  • OLB: Markus Golden (free agent); Devon Kennard
  • LB: Haason Reddick (free agent); Isaiah Irving (free agent)
  • LCB: Patrick Peterson (free agent); Kevin Peterson
  • SS: Charles Washington (free agent); Deionte Thompson
  • FS: Budda Baker; Chris Banjo (free agent)
  • RCB: Dre Kirkpatrick (free agent); Byron Murphy
  • NB: Byron Murphy; Jalen Thompson

Field Yates of ESPN noted the production between Watt and Jones over the last eight years: 

Field Yates @FieldYates

Most sacks in the NFL since the start of 2012: 1. Chandler Jones: 97 2. JJ Watt: 95.5 Now teammates in Arizona.

Before the Watt signing, the Cardinals had a projected $17.2 million in cap space, per Spotrac. Obviously, more comings and goings will affect that number as the team looks to build a contender around Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, Chandler Jones, Budda Baker and Watt. 

The 31-year-old Watt—who will be 32 come the 2021 season—had a solid 2020 campaign, registering 52 tackles (14 for loss), five sacks, 17 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, an interception and a touchdown.

It was a nice bounce-back campaign after the veteran missed eight games in 2019. Watt has dealt with a litany of injuries in the second half of his career that also cost him 24 games between the 2016-17 seasons. 

When healthy, he's a force, with 101 sacks in 128 career games. Watt is a five-time Pro Bowler, five-time first-team All-NFL selection and a surefire future Hall of Famer. He's registered five seasons with 10 or more sacks and two seasons with 20 or more sacks.

He's arguably the greatest interior pass-rusher in NFL history (though Aaron Donald will have something to say about that as his career progresses). The Cardinals undoubtedly improved with his signing, even if Watt is no longer the singularly dominant presence he was earlier in his career.