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Two years, $28 million for J.J. Watt

Mike Florio and Chris Simms examine the way J.J. Watt was recruited to the Arizona Cardinals and how GM Steve Keim used the fact Watt had never been recruited before to his advantage.

After two days, the real numbers have emerged on the J.J. Watt deal with the Cardinals. As suspected, it’s not a two-year, $31 million deal.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media (who also with Adam Schefter of ESPN told the world it was a two-year, $31 million deal), it’s actually a two-year, $28 million deal. Some may say that it’s not a huge difference. Others may say $3 million is still $3 million.

Per Rapoport, Watt gets $12 million to sign. The deal has a base value of $14.5 million in 2021, with a base value of $28 million over two years.

To get to $31 million, Watt needs to have 10 or more sacks in 2021 and 2022. Watt hasn’t had double-digit sacks in consecutive seasons since 2014 and 2015.

It’s believed that other teams were in the range of $12 million per year for Watt. The Cardinals are paying him $14 million. Presumably, no one offered Watt between $15 million and $16 million, despite an ESPN report from last week that used those numbers.

Rapoport provides no specifics regarding the amount fully guaranteed at signing. Our guess is that the first year is fully guaranteed ($14.5 million) and that the remaining $8.5 million in “guaranteed” money is guaranteed for injury only for now, with a likely conversion to a full guarantee at some point in March 2021. That would allow the Cardinals to move on, making it a one-year, $14.5 million deal, if Watt can pass a physical before the full guarantee vests next year.

Which is $3 million less than Watt was due to make in Houston this year. Again, some may say that it’s not a huge difference. Others may say $3 million is still $3 million.