NFL betting: Does the Cardinals' addition of J.J. Watt make them a contender?

Frank Schwab
·3 min read

The beauty of having a capable quarterback on his rookie deal is the extra cap space to spend on free agents.

Consider J.J. Watt a luxury signing for the Arizona Cardinals.

The two-year deal worth a reported $31 million was feasible because Kyler Murray is still on his rookie deal. The Cardinals are adding a three-time NFL defensive player of the year to go opposite Chandler Jones, one of the NFL's best pass rushers. The Cardinals defense already had some talented young players to go with established veterans, with an offense that at times was very effective last season.

Watt is a big name to add, especially a couple weeks before free agency even starts, but does that mean the Cardinals' Super Bowl odds are a good value?

J.J. Watt helps the Cards

The Cardinals' odds didn't move at BetMGM because they signed Watt. Arizona is 40-to-1 to win the Super Bowl. The Cardinals are 20-to-1 to win the NFC, tied for the eighth-best odds.

It makes sense their odds didn't shift. Watt is still a very good player, but he will be 32 years old on March 22 and has dealt with many injuries. He's likely to end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but it's doubtful he'll win another defensive player of the year award before he's done. That's fine, because the Cardinals might not need vintage Watt to improve.

The Cardinals looked like a hot ticket for a while last season. They were 6-3 with quality wins over the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills. DeAndre Hopkins made an obvious impact on the offense. Murray had moments in which he looked unstoppable. The Cardinals seemed like a playoff lock. But Arizona fell apart, finishing 8-8 and out of the playoffs.

Still, there were some seeds planted for 2021. Most of the Cardinals' cap flexibility was used on Watt, but they have shown they'll be aggressive and should get some immediate help from the 16th pick of the draft. Having the Cardinals at +4000 to win the Super Bowl might not be the worst ticket to hold.

Defensive end J.J. Watt picked Arizona after he was cut by the Texans. (AP Photo/David Richard)
Defensive end J.J. Watt picked Arizona after he was cut by the Texans. (AP Photo/David Richard)

Cardinals still have a hard road

The Cardinals' challenges are real, and that's why they don't have shorter odds to win it all.

Kliff Kingsbury can consider himself on the hot seat after last year's collapse and plenty of questionable decisions. He hasn't quite been the offensive mastermind he was advertised to be after Texas Tech fired him and he strangely had NFL teams chasing him right after. It doesn't help that Arizona is in the NFC West, which might be the deepest division in the NFL.

Arizona's defense has come along faster than the offense. The Cardinals had 48 sacks last season, tied with the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers for fourth-best in the NFL. It will be hard to retain cornerback Patrick Peterson and linebacker Haason Reddick, who are free agents, but perhaps the Cardinals can get creative. If Kingsbury can get his offense going, Watt helps a defense that was already pretty good and the Cardinals make a couple other key additions with their remaining resources, it'll be a fun team.

The Cardinals might not be contenders. But the addition of Watt, along with the other stars on the roster, certainly makes them a team worth watching. And maybe betting on.

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