DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt helped bring four AFC South division titles to Houston. Hopkins is hoping that Watt can help do more of the same in Arizona.
Hopkins, a perennial Pro Bowl receiver who was traded from Houston to Arizona last offseason, posted an image of himself and Watt in Cardinals jerseys on his Instagram account on Tuesday. The post also included Hopkins' pitch to Watt to join forces with him in Arizona.
"Let's finish what we stated," Hopkins wrote.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is slated to become a free agent next month, responded to Hopkins' post. Currently a member of the Steelers, Smith-Schuster encouraged Watt to "come play with your brothers" in Pittsburgh.
While the Cardinals are not reportedly in the mix to land Watt, they would certainly make some sense. The 2020 Cardinals were 6-3 before injuries played a role in an 8-8 finish. Arizona fell just short of ending their five-year playoff drought.
Hopkins isn't alone on a talented Cardinal' roster that includes quarterback Kyler Murray, safety Budda Baker, cornerback Patrick Peterson, and outside linebackers Chandler Jones and Haason Reddick. The Cardinals have several pending free agents that included Peterson, Reddick, receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and running back Kenyan Drake. The team's current projected salary-cap space is $13.5 million, according to Over the Cap.
In Arizona, Watt would join a Cardinals' defense that finished fourth in the NFL with 48 sacks last season. Arizona's defense also finished 12th in scoring and red-zone efficiency, 10th in passing and third in red-zone efficiency. The Cardinals could get significantly better in run defense, however, as they were just 22nd in the league in that department in 2020.
Being fairly compensated, playing for a Super Bowl-caliber team, and being part of a strong culture are among the requisites Watt is reportedly looking for in his next team. While the Cardinals' 2021 Super Bowl prospects are decent, reuniting with Hopkins and being part of a talented defense are among the Cardinals' top selling points. The Cardinals also have stability. Owner Michael Bidwell has enjoyed a successful partnership with Steve Keim, who is entering his ninth season as the team's general manager. During Keim's time in the desert, the Cardinals have had considerable success with veteran players who spent the majority of their careers on other teams. In 2015, veterans Carson Palmer, running back Chris Johnson and Dwight Freeney helped Arizona reach the NFC Championship Game. Each player spoke highly of their experience with the Cardinals' organization.
"Five years [with the Cardinals] was not enough for me," Palmer said upon being told that he was being added to the team's Ring of Honor in 2019. "I wish we would've gotten there earlier as you know, but I am beyond honored and I can't wait. That's amazing."
The Cardinals will face stiff competition if they hope to acquire the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. A dozen teams have already already expressed interest in Watt, who is reportedly strongly considering the Cleveland Browns as a possible landing spot. Titans general manager Jon Robinson confirmed on Tuesday that Tennessee has made contact with Watt's representatives. Watt spent four seasons working alongside Titans coach Mike Vrabel, who served as Houston's defensive coordinator prior to his arrival in Tennessee.
The Steelers may also be a possibly landing spot for Watt, as Pittsburgh already employs Watt's younger brothers in outside linebacker T.J. Watt and fullback Derek Watt. The Packers are also considered as one of the favorites to land Watt, a Wisconsin native.