When JJ Watt took to Twitter on Monday and announced that he would be signing with the Cardinals, the news brought plenty of excitement, as Arizona was not considered a favorite to land the former Texans defensive lineman based on previous reporting. It also created a small problem.
Watt wore the No. 99 jersey while playing college football at Wisconsin and kept that number over 10 seasons in Houston. Unfortunately for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, the Cardinals retired No. 99 to honor Marshall Goldberg, a Pro Bowler who played for the then-Chicago Cardinals from 1939 to 1948. Goldberg was also inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor shortly after his death in 2006.
It was widely assumed that Watt would be forced to select a different number, but he may still be able to keep his first choice. Goldberg’s daughter, Ellen Goldberg Tullos, told TMZ Sports that she would not have any issue with Watt taking her father’s number.
“[Watt] has my blessings, and I’m sure my father would be more than delighted for him to carry it on,” Tullos said.
Tullos added that her father “always respected other players,” and she believes Goldberg would have given Watt permission to proudly wear the No. 99.
“He would be fine with that,” Tullos said. “It’s just the type of guy he was, you know? I think he would be happy to let him use his number and honored with that as well.”
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Watt and the Cardinals reached an agreement on a two-year deal worth $31 million with $23 million guaranteed. In 16 games with the Texans last season, Watt totaled 52 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception, which he returned for a touchdown.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Cardinals had not yet commented on whether Watt would be able to stick with No. 99, but now that Goldberg’s daughter is on board, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Watt donning a familiar look next season.
UPDATE: Yep, it’s happening. Watt said he spoke with Tullos and is “good to go.”