J.J. Watt Rumors: Conflicting Reports Emerge About Browns, Colts Contract Offers

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist

Houston Texans' J.J. Watt (99) watches before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Conflicting reports have emerged about the contract offers J.J. Watt received in free agency prior to his deal with the Arizona Cardinals.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Watt will receive $31 million over two years, $23 million of which is guaranteed. According to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts put more money on the table for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

However, Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports later reported that he was not hearing the same things as Gambadoro:

Charles Robinson @CharlesRobinson

Unless the #Colts, #Browns and #Titans are straight up lying, this is not what I’ve been told. I’ve been told by multiple Watt suitors that the $23 million guaranteed in Watt’s Arizona deal was near ceiling for their total $. Teams were trying to get Watt for roughly $12 mil per. https://t.co/elWPjOReD1

Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com also reported the Browns did not offer as much.

The exact details of Watt's additional offers remain unclear. ESPN's Dianna Russini reported last Thursday he had received a contract worth between $15 million and $16 million, which is within the range of what he'll collect from the Cardinals.

Of course, money was not the only factor in Watt's decision. Ed Werder of ESPN also reported Arizona's quarterback situation factored into the equation:

Ed Werder @WerderEdESPN

I was told JJ Watt’s first criteria in choosing his team would be the the quality of the quarterback. So this seems an endorsement of @K1 https://t.co/VitQfjrquN

Of note, the 31-year-old will now be reuniting with former Houston Texans teammate DeAndre Hopkins.

James Palmer @JamesPalmerTV

Just posted on DeAndre Hopkins IG. https://t.co/ApHNabinMB

That the Cardinals landed Watt wasn't a complete surprise. B/R's Kristopher Knox listed an edge-rusher as one of the team's top priorities this offseason.

"On defense, Arizona needs to address its pass rush," Knox wrote. "Chandler Jones played just five games before he landed on injured reserve because of a torn biceps, and he'll be in the final year of his deal in 2021. Haason Reddick leads the team with five sacks but is already in the final year of his contract."

However, Arizona is facing a bit of a cap crunch.

Spotrac projects the team to have $17.3 million available to spend with an $185 million salary cap, a figure that doesn't fully reflect Watt's arrival because his 2021 cap hit is unknown.

While the addition of Watt allows the Cardinals to more easily move on from Reddick if his price tag climbs too high, they still have to consider the futures of Kenyan Drake, Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Peterson. Their financial flexibility is evaporating fast, with the start of free agency still more than two weeks away on March 17.