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JJ Watt
Free Agency Rewind: Cardinals Make Major Moves
A look back at the additions during the first few weeks of the new league year
Apr 06, 2021
Photographs By Derrick Spencer/Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals made some high-profile moves in free agency, adding a collection of players with major accomplishments on their resumes. The signing of defensive end J.J. Watt kicked things off, and other pieces joined him in the ensuing weeks. Here is a look back at the work done thus far by General Manager Steve Keim.

JJ Watt and wife Kealia talk with Michael Bidwill after Watt signed his contract in March, 2021
J.J. Watt signs his contract
DE J.J. Watt at the Cardinals' facility.


The Watt signing came out of nowhere, as the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year broke the news to the world on social media by donning a Cardinals shirt during a workout. It was a two-year contract that had the entire league buzzing before free agency had even officially kicked off. During his introductory press conference, the 32-year-old Watt was asked how much he had left in the tank. "A lot," Watt said. "A whole lot."

Images of wide receiver A.J. Green signing his one-year deal with the Cardinals.
Images of wide receiver A.J. Green signing his one-year deal with the Cardinals.
Images of wide receiver A.J. Green signing his one-year deal with the Cardinals.


A.J. Green put up gaudy numbers in his decade with the Bengals, and is reinvigorated by his next chapter in Arizona. The 2020 season was a down one for the 32-year-old, but he vows a bounceback is on the horizon. The Cardinals boast two of the most accomplished receivers in the NFL between Green and DeAndre Hopkins. If Green can return to his past form, quarterback Kyler Murray will have great options to target on the outside.

Rodney Hudson talks with Kliff Kingsbury in the showcase conference room after arriving in trade in 2021
K Matt Prater signs his two-year contract with the Cardinals.


Keim seemed adamant on finding more protection for Murray this offseason, and took a big swing by acquiring Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson from the Raiders for a third-round draft pick. The left side of the Cardinals' line -- tackle D.J. Humphries, guard Justin Pugh and Hudson -- has the capability to be elite, which would be a big boost on offense. While the Cardinals have designs of scoring touchdowns in 2021, Keim made sure to shore up the kicking game as well, signing veteran Matt Prater.

CB Malcolm Butler (left) shakes hands with owner Michael Bidwill.
CB Malcolm Butler speaks to the media following his signing

There was plenty of consternation about the cornerback position when Patrick Peterson left for the Vikings. Malcolm Butler helped remedy that by inking a one-year deal, and the veteran should slide in as the team's top cover man. The Cardinals may not be done adding at this position, whether Keim targets it again in free agency or in the draft.

S Shawn Williams signs his contract
QB Colt McCoy signs his contract
OL Brian Winters speaks to the media following his signing

Watt, Green, Hudson and Butler were certainly the headliners, but Keim also added some depth to the roster in free agency. Quarterback Colt McCoy was signed to back up Murray, while guard Brian Winters and safety Shawn Williams were veteran additions that helped bolster their position groups. Keim also re-signed several of the Cardinals' free agents, including outside linebacker Markus Golden and right tackle Kelvin Beachum.

While the pace has now slowed, Keim has a penchant for adding impactful veterans on team-friendly deals later in free agency. The Cardinals' roster seems pretty close to a finished product, but there could be a few more tweaks in the coming months.

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