Three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt announced on Tuesday he will retire at the end of the 2022 NFL season.
Watt tweeted the Arizona Cardinals’ Week 16 game will be his final NFL home game, setting the stage for one of the most decorated defenders in NFL history to step away from the game.
“My heart is filled with nothing but love and gratitude,” Watt told fans. “It’s been an absolute honor and a pleasure.”
Watt won Defensive Player of the Year three times in a dominant four-year stretch (2012, 2014, 2015) and was a five-time first-team All-Pro. In 2014, a season in which he led the NFL with 20.5 sacks with five fumble recoveries, five touchdowns, 78 tackles and 10 passes defended, Watt finished runner-up in MVP balloting.
With the Cardinals this season, he was playing some of his most productive football in years, tallying 9.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss in 14 starts. However, sitting at 4-11 and in last place in the NFC West, the Cardinals are eliminated from playoff contention, ensuring the team’s final two games will almost certainly be Watt’s last in the NFL.
His final two games will be on the road, at the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday and at the San Francisco 49ers in Week 18.
— Cameron Cox (@CamCox12) December 26, 2022
Training at EXOS in az pre combine to 12 seasons later Salute to one of the greatest from draft class ‘11! https://t.co/4CDmM3vUoU
— cameron jordan (@camjordan94) December 27, 2022
Great respect for JJ Watt’s body of work both on the field and off. A total class act. Well done brother!
— Rich Gannon (@RichGannon12) December 27, 2022
Next stop Canton Ohio https://t.co/TuRQ5aBeRK
— trey wingo (@wingoz) December 27, 2022
Watt spent the first 10 years of his career in Houston, where he became one of the NFL’s most respected players, on and off the field. For his work with the City of Houston following Hurricane Harvey, Watt was named the 2017 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year — one of the league’s highest honors.
Injuries hampered a good portion of his career after winning his final DPOY award in 2015. After not missing a single game in his first five years in the league, Watt played only eight combined games in 2016 and 2017, played a full season in 2018, but ended up back on injured reserve in 2019. However, he finished as the runner-up in Comeback Player of the Year balloting in 2020 — his final season with the Texans — after recording five sacks, 14 tackles for loss and an interception returned for a touchdown.
Following that season, Watt asked for and was granted his release from the Texans after playing in Houston for a decade. In March 2021, he signed a two-year, $28 million contract ($23 million guaranteed) with the Cardinals.
In 2022, Prior to the Cardinals’ Week 4 matchup with the Carolina Panthers, Watt announced he’d gone into A-fib and had his heart shocked back into rhythm in the days leading up to the team’s game — which he went on to play in.