J.J. Watt did something not many players have ever done. He made his own free agent announcement.
“Take control of your own narrative,” Watt said, via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.
No reporter was tipped off, and the Cardinals didn’t beat him to the punch. The defensive end took no chances, though, even using subterfuge in his T-shirt order.
Watt ordered T-shirts for the final “four or five” teams in his search, ensuring he would be ready come decision time. But Watt, conscious that news of Patrick Mahomes‘ record extension with the Chiefs last summer was leaked by a liquor store clerk, took no chances.
In fact, Watt went to great lengths to ensure no one at an Amazon fulfillment center would put two and two together. He asked his brother’s high school friend to order the shirts with the friend’s credit card and had the delivery going to the friend’s house to throw anyone off his trail.
“This is kind of funny,” Watt said. “It’s kind of stupid, too, but whatever.”
It worked as Watt broke his own news on social media Monday, posting a photo of him under a squat bar while wearing a Cardinals’ shirt.
“We kept it very quiet,” Watt said. “There were a lot of rumors and reports. It was funny to sit back and watch it all play out. At the end, when I decided Arizona was the place, we realized how quiet it had truly been on that front.”
Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim put a full-court press on Watt, using celebrities Frank Caliendo and Blake Shelton to woo Watt. It also didn’t hurt that Arizona seemingly made the biggest offer as Watt signed a two-year, $31 million deal.