The Arizona Cardinals knew J.J. Watt‘s All-World on-field talent was a testament to his off-field character. The 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year award recipient was known as much for his philanthropy as his physicality, especially after raising over $40 million for Hurricane Harvey relief while playing for the Houston Texans. Watt has stepped up again, helping a fan with their grandfather’s funeral expenses after seeing their fundraising tweet.
The fan, Jennifer Simpson, sent a tweet stating they had some J.J Watt women’s edition Reebok shoes and a Watt women’s extra large Texans jersey for sale for a combined total of $90. It took Watt just 20 minutes to respond and extend a hand, saying “we’ll help with the funeral. I’m sorry for your loss.”
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The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year also paid for the funerals of six victims of a fatal car crash into a Christmas parade in Wisconsin and the 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting victims, which Watt publically called “absolutely horrific.”
Watt will report to training camp after a full offseason to strengthen his surgically repaired shoulder. He did make a return last season after suffering a torn labrum, bicep, and rotator cuff in addition to dislocating his shoulder in October against the Houston Texans. The move was feared to be season-ending but Watt made it back for the 34-11 playoff loss versus the Los Angeles Rams, recording just one solo tackle.
Cardinals Counting on Watt to Help Defense Do More With Less
Arizona has brought in Hollywood Brown to help Kliff Kingbury and Deandre Hopkins make Kyler Murray’s job easier. The Cardinals also gave their franchise cornerstone quarterback a historic five-year, $230 million contract extension. J.J. Watt will lead a defense making a combined total of just over $88 million this season. The Vance Joseph-led unit will have to do more with less to lead the team back to the postseason.
Even with Watt’s $15.9 million cap hit, the entire defensive line will earn $28 million combined. The unit’s wages rank 22nd overall. The linebackers and defensive backs are both 15th on the NFL’s earnings charts. The offensive line, in contrast, is the highest-paid line in the league. The offense is the 5th-best-paid group.
Watt played only seven games along the line last season, notching 12 tackles and 1 sack with 2 passes defended. The line was depleted once Rashard Lawrence and Zach Allen picked up knocks to join Watt on the injury report. The safety combo of Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson can help the corners patrol the passing lanes but they need more pressure from the highest-paid player up front.
Baker has made four Pro Bowls in five seasons and Thompson led the team in tackles last year. Linebacker Isaiah Simmons was used in drop coverages while Markus Golden and Zaven Collins worried about running plays. However, all three have to deal with too much traffic when the defensive line does not attract double teams.
Cornerbacks Byron Murphy Jr. and Marco Wilson are in different prove-it situations. The 24-year-old Murphy Jr. will soon be looking for a contract extension after snagging four interceptions last season. Wilson needs a good second year to solidify his future with the team. The defense is depending on Watt to help make everyone’s job easier during another playoff run.