The Cleveland Browns will head into free agency on March 17 in need of a defensive end to pair opposite Myles Garrett.
That player will not be 10-year veteran J.J. Watt, however.
After a strange morning on social media where Watt shot down rumors that he had narrowed his choices to the Browns, Green Bay Packers or Buffalo Bills, Watt announced on his Twitter feed that he is signing with the Arizona Cardinals:
The deal is reportedly for two years and $31 million, with $23 million in guaranteed money, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:
The #AZCardinals are giving JJ Watt a 2-year deal worth $31M with $23M guaranteed, source said.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 1, 2021
Watt had been linked to the Browns from the moment he was released by the Houston Texans on February 12. As a free agent, Watt was reportedly looking to join a team that had a combination of salary cap space, the ability to win now, a good supporting cast and a quality team environment.
The Browns checked off each of those criteria as they have $20 million-plus in available cap space, are coming off a playoff season, have Garrett to take the pressure off Watt, and have created a solid team environment under head coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry.
Apparently, and somewhat understandably for a soon-to-be 32-year-old player who has only played 48 out of a possible 80 games over the past five seasons, Watt chose the money in Arizona, along with a shaky head coach and a team that has not made the playoffs since 2015, over the chance to be part of something special with the Browns.
While Browns fans will not have the opportunity to see Watt in a Cleveland uniform, they still may have a chance this fall to let Watt know how they feel about his decision. If the NFL decides to add a 17th game to the schedule, as expected, the Browns will host the Cardinals at some point this season.