After 10 seasons as part of the Houston Texans, 2021 will see J.J. Watt play for another NFL team after inking a contract with the Arizona Cardinals. Let’s take a look at Watt’s new deal and his impact on the Cardinals’ 2021 salary cap.
J.J. Watt’s contract details and bonuses
On March 1st, J.J. Watt signed a two-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals. The deal is reportedly worth $31 million, with $23 million guaranteed. However, there is currently limited information regarding the specifics of the deal. This includes no indication of the signing bonus amount or how the guarantees are structured.
How will J.J. Watt’s contract affect the Cardinals’ salary cap?
Prior to signing J.J. Watt, the Cardinals had around $17 million in salary cap space. Without knowing the specifics regarding the structure of the deal, the exact number following his signing is unknown. However, if we project that J.J. Watt signed a deal that will count $15.5 million against the Cardinals’ salary cap in each season, we can project that the Cardinals will have around $2 million in salary cap space in 2021.
What are the Cardinals’ options with J.J. Watt moving forward?
A lot of what the Cardinals can do with regards to J.J. Watt next offseason will depend on the structure of the deal. If the majority of his guaranteed money falls in 2021, then the Cardinals will have an option to release Watt in 2022. Let’s look at some of the options.
What could we see when it comes to J.J. Watt’s contract in Arizona?
The following information is hypothetical. These numbers will be updated when the full structure of J.J. Watt’s contract is known.
Let’s first assume that of the $31 million that the deal is worth, $10 million is a signing bonus. The bonus would prorate as $5 million per year on the Cardinals’ salary cap. If Watt is set to earn another $7.5 million in guaranteed salary in 2021, his salary cap hit would be $12.5 million in 2021. That would leave another $13.5 million in salary in 2022.
If these numbers are correct, and assuming that $23 million is fully guaranteed at signing, $5.5 million of that would be guaranteed. Therefore, releasing Watt next offseason would leave the Cardinals with $10.5 million in dead money.
In the event the Cardinals traded Watt in 2022, they would be left with whatever prorated signing bonus remained on the deal. In this instance, that would be $5 million. Any remaining money would then be paid by the team who traded for J.J. Watt and his contract. The Cardinals will also have an option to extend J.J. Watt’s contract heading into the 2022 NFL season.
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