J.J. Watt's trail of clues ultimately led to the desert, and his free-agent decision gave us some meaty news on a Monday in March. This week on The Weak-Side Podcast, Conor and Jenny discuss:
*The reaction to Watt's decision to go to Arizona, and what it says that two one-time faces of the Texans are now playing together on another team.
*Will the Seahawks actually trade Russell Wilson, or is a quarterback exerting his influence in this way the new normal?
*The top candidates for franchise tags this year, and whether there will be fewer players playing on the tag this season as a result of the pandemic-depleted cap.
*The latest in Conor Orr's How-To Series: A Quarterback's Guide to Forcing Their Way Out of Town.
*One telling hiring metric in the NFL's 2021 coaching demographics report.
Jenny Vrentas: Despite a multitude of rumors linking J.J. Watt to some rustic Midwestern outposts, the defensive end signed with the Cardinals Monday, marking the second time in as many years that Arizona got a great Texans player for next to nothing. Let’s discuss.
Conor Orr: It’s interesting to me that if you’re the Cardinals, you liked J.J. Watt enough to ... You didn’t wait to see who else was getting on the market; you didn’t wait to see what other GMs were going to pay certain guys what, you know, maybe the market really is depressed this offseason and you’re going to be able to get a good deal. You cut the line and you got J.J. Watt because you thought he was that good. And if you’re in Houston, now all of a sudden you got rid of DeAndre Hopkins for next to nothing. And then because of all the poor goodwill or ill will you created, you almost had to release J.J. Watt to save face. But clearly, it looks like you missed out on a good trade opportunity because the Cardinals liked him enough to jump the line and sign him at a time when nobody is signing players because they don’t know what the market’s going to look like. I would assume that they would have been able to trade him as well.
Jenny Vrentas: Yeah, it seems like there should have been some kind of trade market for Watt. He obviously had a conversation with the organization where they came to a decision to release him. Clearly, there’s been a lot going on with the Texans. It would be interesting to see if a part of that conversation was, let’s have a peaceful divorce; we can’t handle any more noise circulating around the Texans—of their own making I would say. But perhaps that was part of the conversation: We will release you and make it a happy divorce, so to speak. And now he’s on to his next destination. That kind of scenario wouldn’t surprise me. I think there were some surprises. People were thinking, well if he’s leaving the Texans, he wants to go to a team where you could have a chance to win a Super Bowl immediately. And the Cardinals don’t really look like that. They had a very up-and-down, rollercoaster season. They certainly don’t look like a team where adding J.J. Watt would immediately make them a top contender at the top of their conference. But it’s probably fair to expect that Watt had a lot of reasons for wanting to leave Houston. And you can say you want to go to a winner, but maybe you just want a fresh start somewhere else, too.
Conor Orr: Yeah, it’ll be nice. He’ll get to play the Texans as at some point this year, the Texans and the Cardinals do face off. But I’m wondering if it’s one of those things where if you’re J.J. Watt, do you see this as an ascending franchise? And do you have some sort of assurance that, yes, they’re not going to do anything funny with Chandler Jones, that maybe they’ll bring Haason Reddick back, that they’re going to surround you with those kinds of guys so that you can continue to assume that sort of Swiss-army-knife role, where you get to seek out advantageous matchups, you get to rush from different places. I wonder how much negotiation there was back and forth here. And maybe some of the really deep, finite reasons for this, because it would seem like there was some interest and like you said, maybe some a clear path to a championship elsewhere.