fb-pixel Skip to main content
NFL notebook

Cardinals’ J.J. Watt indicates he’ll retire at end of NFL season

Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt has 9½ sacks in 2022, his most since 2018.Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

J.J. Watt could be a terrifying presence on a football field, hunting opposing quarterbacks with unparalleled ferocity, particularly during the early 2010s with the Houston Texans.

But the 6-foot-5-inch, 288-pounder also could be a joyful fan favorite, playing catch on the sideline with young fans in the stands before games.

Now one of the best defensive players in NFL history looks as if he's ready to call it a career.

Watt — a three-time AP Defensive Player of the Year — indicated Tuesday that he will retire at the end of the season, posting pictures of his wife and baby on social media while writing: “Koa’s first ever NFL game. My last ever NFL home game. My heart is filled with nothing but love and gratitude. It’s been an absolute honor and a pleasure.”


The Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman and his wife, Kealia, became parents in October. Koa is the name of their son.

Watt, 33, was among the premier defensive players in the NFL during the early 2010s with the Texans. The former Wisconsin standout was a first-round pick in 2011 and was dominant from 2012-15, finishing that four-year stretch with 69 sacks, to earn all three of his AP Defensive Player of the Year awards.

Watt was solid during his rookie season but became a star in 2012, with a stunning 20½ sacks and 39 tackles for a loss. His production dipped slightly in 2013 before two more big seasons. He had 20½ sacks in 2014 and 17½ in 2015.

His production slipped during the later half of his career, largely because of injuries. He missed big chunks of time in 2016, 2017, 2019, and 2021, but has had a late-career revival with the Cardinals — his 9½ sacks this season are his most since 2018.

Watt spent his first 10 seasons with the Texans, leaving in 2021 as one of the most beloved figures in the city's sports history. His community efforts were unmatched, highlighted by raising more than $40 million for Hurricane Harvey relief.


Sports Radio 610, which is the flagship station of the Texans, set up the J.J. Watt Goodbye Hotline that received hundreds of messages. The station tweeted a 30-minute montage of the calls, with plenty of lighter fare such as the man who planned to name his twins Jay and Jae and another who sang “I Will Always Love You.”

But several men sounded as if they were choking back tears or actively weeping during their messages and one caller from Santa Fe, Texas, thanked Watt for paying for the funerals of the eight students and two teachers who died in a school shooting there in 2018.

Watt set Texans franchise records in sacks (101), tackles for loss (172), quarterback hits (281), and forced fumbles (25).

Watt has spent the past two seasons with the Cardinals. He has played some of his best football in Arizona over the past few weeks, with three sacks against the Broncos and two tackles for a loss on Christmas against the Buccaneers.

The Cardinals and Watt have two more games this season, both on the road against the Falcons and 49ers.

Broncos’ search begins

His family bought the Broncos last summer, but it was on Tuesday that CEO Greg Penner really took ownership of the franchise.

Penner made it clear that not only will he lead the search for a new head coach but that Nathaniel Hackett’s replacement will report directly to him and not to general manager George Paton.


“Yes, the new head coach will report to me, which is the more typical structure in the NFL,” Penner said. “Obviously, the relationship between the general manager and the head coach is a critical one and George is going to be intimately involved with this process of looking for a new head coach and we’ll make sure that there’s a good fit there.”

Penner, his wife, Carrie Walton-Penner, and her father, Rob Walton, purchased the team for $4.65 billion, a global record for a professional sports franchise. Limited partners include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Hackett leaves after Sunday's loss to the Rams.Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

The team has proven to be more of a fixer-upper than the new owners expected.

The Broncos have tumbled through a 4-11 season and quarterback Russell Wilson has stumbled through the worst season of his career after signing a $245 million extension before the opener.

“When we purchased this great franchise in August this is not the season we were expecting,” Penner said, adding, “I want to personally apologize to our fans and all of Broncos country. We know that we need to be better and we will.”

The Broncos have extended their playoff drought to seven years, mostly because of a sputtering offense that averages fewer than 16 points per game.

Hackett became just the fifth coach in NFL history not to make it through his first season. He’s being replaced by interim coach Jerry Rosburg after Ejiro Evero, a candidate for the full-time job, declined the temporary offer, suggesting he’d be more of a help these last two weeks just sticking to his role as defensive coordinator.


The new head coach will have to find a way to fix Wilson and establish an offensive identity to match the team’s stingy defense.

Penner said he wanted to wait until after the season to decide on Hackett’s fate, but that all changed when the Broncos were blown out, 51-14, by the Rams on Christmas Day.

That debacle alone isn’t what got Hackett fired with three years and more than $12 million left on his contract, but it did accelerate the conversations that led to his dismissal.

Penner said he “didn’t go into this week thinking this was a time we were going to make a change. But after we saw the effort we put forward on Sunday, some of the things that were going on off the field, we just felt like it was time to make a decision.”

Paton said he still thinks Hackett is “a great football coach” but that “it just didn’t work out here.”

Packers put Lowry on IR

The Packers placed defensive lineman Dean Lowry on injured reserve after a calf issue caused him to leave Sunday’s victory over the Dolphins.

The move will end Lowry’s streak of 101 regular-season games played.

Lowry, a 2016 fourth-round pick from Northwestern, started 12 games this season and had 43 tackles to rank second among Packers defensive linemen. Lowry had a career-high five sacks last season, but had only a half-sack this season.