Carolina Panthers right not to enter J.J. Watt sweepstakes

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) J.J. Watt
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) J.J. Watt /

J.J. Watt has chosen his next decision. But considering the finances involved, the Carolina Panthers were right not to put their name in the hat.

J.J. Watt finally revealed his next destination after departing the Houston Texans. The legendary defensive end penned a deal with the Arizona Cardinals after weeks of speculation about his next destination, which could be classed as something of a surprise considering the Super Bowl contenders who were looking to acquire his services.

Whether the Carolina Panthers put in a call for Watt is up for debate. However, considering the money he was eventually given by Arizona, they made the right call not shooting their shot if they were considering doing so at one stage.

According to NFL Network insider Ian Rappaport, the Cardinals gave Watt a two-year, $31 million deal with $23 million guaranteed. Even though the benefits of bringing the future Pro Football Hall of Famer to Carolina were there for all to see, this sort of financial package could have jeopardized strengthening other key positional groups that are more important at this stage of their rebuild.

Watt is a game-changer at the top of his game.

But committing so much to the player when Carolina has two promising edge rushers in Brian Burns and Yetur Gross-Matos wouldn’t have been the smartest move in the world.

Carolina Panthers would have overpaid for J.J. Watt.

The All-Pro is also heading into the twilight of his career, which the Panthers seem to be staying clear of if their recent recruitment and personnel decisions are any indications. A youthful, energetic group is something Matt Rhule has done well forming since arriving in Carolina. So although more is definitely needed to take the next step, this is something that should continue in the coming weeks.

There is little doubt that signing Watt would have been a significant statement of intent.

However, the Panthers have other avenues if they want to achieve this.

The main one, of course, is putting a deal together that tempts the Texans trading star quarterback Deshaun Watson. It will come at an astronomical cost that is already polarizing the team’s loyal fanbase. But a franchise signal-caller has the potential to shift the landscape in Carolina no matter what they give up in return.

Watt is walking into a good spot and will form a fierce tandem alongside Chandler Jones on Arizona’s defensive front. Whether this is good enough for the Cardinals to take the next step and become a legitimate Super Bowl contender is up for debate. But the Panthers cannot be criticized for staying well away.

Make no mistake, what comes next over the next few weeks will shape the future of the franchise. Carolina has to get almost every decision right when it comes to recruitment and new general manager Scott Fitterer is being thrown in at the deep end after arriving from the Seattle Seahawks earlier this year.

Acquiring the five-time Pro Bowler was a long shot for Carolina despite Fitterer’s intention to be “in on every deal” this spring. However, this does not mean they shouldn’t try and boost their pass-rushing options for an improving defense that made some substantial strides during the second half of the 2020 season.