There were a lot of eyes on JJ Watt’s foray into NFL free agency.
Pundits and fans everywhere suggested potential landing spots for the star pass rusher, and Watt played his big decision close to the chest — literally.
Ahead of his now-viral social media post — a photo of Watt at a squat rack wearing an Arizona Cardinals shirt — the former Houston Texan used a little misdirection.
“We had an idea of the four or five final teams and I had shirts for them,” the 31-year-old said at his introductory press conference on Tuesday. “I didn’t trust the person at the packaging facility wouldn’t put two and two together. Had it shipped to a friend’s house so the information wouldn’t leak out.”
The Wisconsin product got a surprise of his own when it was reported that the daughter of Chicago Cardinals running back and safety Marshall Goldberg gave Watt the go-ahead to wear her father’s retired No. 99.
“He has my blessings,” Ellen Goldberg Tullos, told TMZ. “And I’m sure my father would be more than delighted for him to carry it on.”
Goldberg, a four-time All-Pro who died in 2006, had his career interrupted by World War II Navy service.
“We had a great conversation, she was super sweet,” Watt said of his call with Tullos on Tuesday at his introductory press conference. “(She) said that she believes her father would be honored and she believes that he was all about the players and so she said that she thought he would want me to wear it. I’m very honored and touched that they thought of me in that way and that I can do that and I told her that I would do everything in my power to honor him and to make him proud and make his legacy proud.”
He’ll get a start on this in the 2021 season, his first of a two-year deal worth $31 million, with $23 million guaranteed for the 2011 first-round NFL Draft pick.
While the money was certainly enticing, Watt pointed to several key Cardinals players — QB Kyler Murray, wideout and former Texans teammate DeAndre Hopkins, linebacker Chandler Jones, safety Budda Baker — as a reason for excitement. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year also cited his familiarity with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, another ex-Houston figure.
Watt now joins them on a team that went 8-8 and missed the playoffs in 2020, and has plans to put them over the edge.
“The longer I looked at, signs kept pointing back here,” Watt said. “There’s a lot of exciting things about what’s happening down here in Arizona.”