Money talks louder than anything, so the Cardinals likely didn’t need to “pull out all the stops” to land J.J. Watt. But they did just that to make sure the defensive end felt their love.
Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim joined The Rich Eisen Show on Tuesday to discuss landing the big free agent fish.
“Well, as soon as he was officially released, immediately took a look at the film and had not evaluated him in a number of years for obvious reasons,” Keim said. “Threw on the tape. Played over a thousand snaps, all 16 games, and refreshed my memory that he still looks like J.J. Watt, which was exciting. Disruptive. Quickness is still there. Powerful. Has a great repertoire of rush moves. Not only that but did some investigative work and talked to guys like Hop [DeAndre Hopkins] and other people who I knew who used to be with the Texans organization. Obviously Vance Joseph, our defensive coordinator, coached J.J. at one time in Houston. So had some intimate knowledge. The fact that I had that information, along with the tape that I saw, gave me the opportunity to reach out to [agent] R.J. Gonser, and let him know our level of interest.”
The Cardinals seemingly made the highest offer, with Watt signing a two-year, $31 million deal. But the team also made every possible effort to assure Watt would choose Arizona over the Titans, Colts, Browns and whoever else.
Keim recruited comedian Frank Caliendo and American country music singer Blake Shelton to help recruit Watt.
“We made the first offer after a few days,” Keim said. “Again, really when you look at J.J.’s history, the guy’s never been recruited. A walk-on at Central Michigan. The path that he’s taken I think it was probably fairly exciting for him to have a number of teams recruit him. I certainly pulled out all the stops. Guys like our friend Frank Caliendo and Hop and even your new jingle Blake Shelton.”
So what did Caliendo tell Watt?
“He probably impersonated Jon Gruden and said that Steve Keim had interest and made some sort of funny deal,” Keim said. “I don’t know what he did. He was my son’s flag football coach, and a terrible one at that. He lives right around the corner from our facility and is a good friend, as you know, so he’s always willing to help.”
Shelton made a recruiting video.
“He’s not a fair-weather fan. He’s all in,” Keim said.
After Watt announced he was joining the Cardinals, Shelton tweeted, “Congratulations @JJWatt and welcome home to the @AZCardinals my man!!! I will be fielding all inquiries on behalf of Steve Keim. ur first statement is as follows.. ‘Other teams can suck it‘.”
“I’m always trying to keep it at the G-rated level, but Blake sort of has a mind of his own,” Keim said, laughing.