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Watt's cookin in 'Zona? Cards emerge from pack of bidders to nab elite defender

Turns out DeAndre Hopkins is more than just the youngest player in NFL history to reach 10,000 receiving yards.

He’s also a pretty good recruiter.

When J.J. Watt beat the free agent rush by asking for and receiving his release from the Houston Texans on Feb. 12, Hopkins made a public request for his teammate of six years to join him in Arizona.

“Let’s finish what we started,” Hopkins tweeted.

For the next two weeks the educated speculation had Watt signing with the Titans, Packers, Browns, Bills … just about every contender with the need for an elite pass rusher and some cap space, and even a team like the Steelers that have neither.

Then on Monday afternoon Watt ended the rumours by breaking the story himself, wearing a toque, barbells across his shoulders, a stern look on his face … and a Cardinals shirt, with a two-word caption: “source: me.”

Classic.

Watt’s deal with Arizona is for two years and $31 million, of which $23 million is guaranteed.
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The thought was he’d wind up getting something worth about $14 million per year, but the Cardinals went at him aggressively, clearly in a win-now mode with franchise quarterback Kyler Murray still on his rookie contract.
The 31-year-old Watt is coming off a season in which he started all 16 games for the woeful, 4-12 Texans, but managed just five sacks.

According to NextGenStats, he was doubled teamed 30% of snaps, the highest rate in the league.

In going to Arizona, the three-time defensive player of the year joins a team that was tied for fourth in sacks last season with 48. Leading the way was outside linebacker Haason Reddick, who had 12.5 sacks on a one-year deal.

Whether Reddick returns in 2021 is unknown, but back on the Cardinals roster will be Chandler Jones, who had just one sack last year before suffer a season-ending biceps injury in Week 5 against the Jets.

Even at that, since joining the Cardinals in 2016, Jones has had 61 sacks, which is second most in the league.

Since 2012, he leads the NFL with 97 sacks.

Second is Watt, with 95.5.

Neither Watt or Jones will be double teamed as much next season, with the former expected to provide mostly inside pressure and the latter bring the heat from the edge.

If the Cardinals can re-sign cornerback Patrick Peterson or someone with close tocomparable ability to take over his job, their defence should be among the best in the league.

Offensively, they need an explosive back to partner with Chase Edmonds. Aaron Jones, who is expected to hit the market when free agency opens on March 17, has been mentioned as a possibility.

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Hopkins may already be on the case.

“Life is good in Arizona,” he tweeted Monday after the Watt signing was announced.

Chandler Jones also chimed in after the 6-foot-5, 288-pound addition to the Cardinals line was made public, sharing a text he sent Watt last month telling him he’d be his personal chef if he signed in Arizona and asking what he likes to eat.

Together, they should be feasting on opposing quarterbacks.

QUARTERBACK ROULETTE
According to a story in The Athletic, the 49ers have called the Carolina Panthers asking about a potential trade for QB Teddy Bridgewater. The Panthers are considered a front runner for Deshaun Watson – who maintains he has played his last game for the Texans – even though Houston is still refusing to take calls inquiring about Watson. San Fran wants to have a solid backup to the oft-injured Jimmy Garoppolo … Washington Football Team is expected to part ways with QB Alex Smith, the NFL’s comeback player of the year, according to multiple reports. It’s believed the 36-year-old Smith has every intention of continuing his career … Either Drew Brees is having fun with people, or he’s having second thoughts about retiring. The 42-year-old Saints QB was shown having an intense workout on a video released by his trainer over the weekend. Earlier last month, Brees restructured his contract with New Orleans so he’ll make $1.075 million next year, thus saving the Saints $24 million in cap space. The betting is still that he’ll be in the broadcast booth and not on the field in 2021 … Chiefs GM Brett Veach told reporters Monday that Patrick Mahomes has a recovery period of three months after toe surgery and will be “good to go” for training camp this summer …
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DOWN THE SIDELINES
Former Pro Bowl DB turned broadcasting great Irv Cross has passed away at the age of 81. Cross, a staple on The NFL Today from 1975-1989, spent five seasons with the Eagles (1961-65) then three with the Rams before coming back to play one final season with Philadelphia … The Eagles have made a move to secure former CFL star LB Alex Singleton, as well as its two other exclusive rights free agents, RB Boston Scott and WR Greg Ward …
GOING DEEP

Sounds like Sammy Watkins could be hitting the free agent market, despite his desire to win more rings in Kansas City. Veach said the team is happy with its pass catching core of Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle, and added: “I can’t see us running out of the gates in the first week of free agency and signing a receiver.” … Expected to expand its season to 17 games in 2021, the NFL is reportedly looking at adding a second Monday nighter to its schedule. Peter King also reports the league is considering playing two games instead of one on Christmas Day.

EXTRA POINTS
Former NFLer Louis Nix was found dead on the weekend. He was 29. Nix, who played his college ball at Notre Dame and was nicknamed “Irish Chocolate”, was injured in a December shooting while filling his car’s tires at a gas station near the airport in Jacksonville, Fla. He said on social media the bullet had ricocheted off his sternum and went into his lung … Aaron Rodgers has donated $1 million to the Aaron Rodgers Small-Business COVID-19 Fund in his hometown of Chico, Calif …
THE END SWEEP
Fellow NFL bad boys and former Cleveland Brown teammates are reuniting, reports Adam Schefter, as Josh Gordon has joined Johnny Manziel on the FCF Zappers of the start-up Fan Controlled Football league … Bears have hired former University of Texas head coach Tom Herman as their offensive analyst/special projects. He has never worked at the NFL level …

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