Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt announced Tuesday that he will retire at the end of the 2022 season.
"My heart is filled with nothing but love and gratitude," tweeted Watt, who said Sunday's loss to the Buccaneers was his last ever NFL home game. "It's been an absolute honor and a pleasure."
A no-brainer for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Watt dominated out of the gate after becoming a first-round pick by Houston in 2011. In his first five seasons, the Wisconsin product tallied 74.5 sacks, 15 forced fumbles, an INT, and 299 tackles while earning three Defensive Player of the Year awards. His 74.5 sacks over that span of time are the second-most since 1982, behind only Hall of Famer Reggie White.
Watt had 18.5 more sacks, 90 more QB hits and 51 more tackles for loss than any other player in the NFL in a four-season span from 2012-2015.
Watt was a relentless force in Houston, unblockable at the point of attack and able to manhandle offensive linemen. His pick-six of Andy Dalton in the 2011 playoffs remains one of the greatest plays in Texans history.
At his peak, Watt single-handedly wrecked game plans and outright controlled the game, a mystifying accomplishment for a defensive lineman. Watt's level of early-career dominance was unmatched. He even garnered MVP votes, finishing second for the award in 2014, an extreme rarity for defensive players.
Watt will retire a three-time DPOY winner with five first-team All-Pro honors, five Pro Bowls. He also led the NFL in sacks twice. He's a shoo-in for a gold jacket in five years (Watt is eligible for the Hall in 2028), as one of three players in NFL history to win DPOY three times -- Lawrence Taylor and Aaron Donald.
Watt is the only player since 1982 with 20-plus sacks in multiple seasons -- 20.5 in 2012 and 2014. He is one of three players since 1982 with 100-plus sacks and six-plus total TDs in his career (also HOF Jason Taylor, Julius Peppers). Watt is one of two players with multiple receiving TDs and pick-six's in his career in the Super Bowl era (also HOF Deion Sanders).
Watt reached 100 career sacks in his 120th career game (Week 9, 2020), the fourth-fewest games to 100 career sacks since 1982 (White, DeMarcus Ware and Bruce Smith).
Injuries curtailed his production down the stretch of his career, as he played a full-slate just twice in the past seven seasons. But when he was on the field, Watt made his presence felt. In his second season in Arizona, Watt has compiled 9.5 sacks, 33 tackles (14 for loss) and six passes defensed in 14 games of what will be his final campaign.
With two games remaining in his legendary career, Watt has 111.5 total sacks, 580 tackles, 27 forced fumbles, 69 passes defensed and two regular-season INTs. The Arizona Cardinals' final two games of the year are at the Atlanta Falcons and the San Francisco 49ers.
As incredible as his on-field performance was during his 12-year career, Watt was just as impactful off the field. His work raising money for the Houston community in the wake of Hurricane Harvey was unparalleled. For his work, Watt was named the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2017, the highest honor in the NFL.