The Arizona Cardinals released the first episode of Cardinals Flight Plan 2021 on Thursday.
And in case you’ve been living under a rock this NFL offseason, this season’s premiere episode outlined the acquisitions of some big-name players.
Those players were none other than defensive lineman J.J. Watt, cornerback Malcolm Butler, wide receiver A.J. Green, offensive lineman Rodney Hudson, running back James Conner and kicker Matt Prater.
“This is J.J. Watt — known as Captain America around these parts,” defensive line coach Brentson Buckner said while watching film. “What I see is a guy who still has his athletic ability, still has his competitive spirit, but also a guy who leans a lot now on things he’s seen in life. His form is impeccable and you have to do that because Father Time is undefeated.
“It’s funny — everybody in the NFL wanted J.J. Watt. Then Arizona is blessed to get him, ‘Oh he’s old he can’t play anymore.’ It’s one of those things, ‘If I can’t have him then nobody can.’ He can still play football in the NFL and play at a high level.”
Buckner went on to show a play where Watt intercepted then-Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford and took it back for a touchdown. The DL coach pointed out that Stafford will be seeing Watt at least twice a year now as division rivals in the NFC West.
While giving him a tour of the team facility in Tempe, Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill pointed out to Watt that Arizona kept the late Pat Tillman’s locker. Thursday also marked the 17-year anniversary of his death.
And although Markus Golden doesn’t technically count as a new addition, the outside linebacker did re-sign with the Cardinals this offseason.
“It’s a blessing to be back as an Arizona Cardinal, back living my dream again,” he said. “The year I had in New York, it was a tough year, it was real tough on me. I didn’t tell anybody how tough it was because I thought about retiring.
“To get traded to Arizona during that season, the organization believed in me, it was a blessing from God. Now that I’ve gone through all of that and can come up in here and sign a two-year deal, it’s one of the best days of my life and I’m excited. I’m going to do everything in my power to win a Super Bowl.”
But all the offseason additions came with one big-name departure: cornerback Patrick Peterson. After spending his entire career in Arizona after being drafted No. 5 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft out of LSU, Peterson signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings.
“It’s a lot of moving parts. I don’t think it’s so much that we didn’t want Patrick back, there are business decisions you have to make,” GM Steve Keim said. “And unfortunately there are ways as general manager or personnel department, where are you going to allocate your funds? And the way this team was made up and the improvements that we felt we had to make, it put us in a tough position to re-sign him.
“Patrick has been a phenomenal player for years. You become great friends with the people you went to high school with for four years, same thing with college. I spent 10 years of my career with Patrick Peterson, so there are obviously emotional attachments you have to these guys and it’s not fun.”
If there’s one thing that’s crystal clear, it’s what the Cardinals’ goal is for the 2021 season: win Super Bowl LVI.
“We had to self-evaluate and see where we needed to improve,” Keim added. “To me, you can either sit back and watch it happen or take the bull by the horns.
“We had the opportunity to make some moves and be aggressive. I’m really, really excited about the players we’ve added and the leadership that comes with that.”