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Rooney Won’t Speculate On Contract Extension Timing For Watt

The Pittsburgh Steelers appear destined to sign a few players to contract extensions this coming offseason with defensive tackle Cameron Heyward and outside linebacker Bud Dupree both being strong candidates for such. While the team could ultimately decide to sign outside linebacker T.J. Watt to an extremely lucrative contract extension this offseason on the heels of his Defensive Player of the Year-like showing in 2019, team president Art Rooney II wasn’t ready to commit to such a transaction happening prior to the start of the 2020 regular season when asked to comment on the subject on Wednesday during his annual end-of-the-season media session

“I really don’t like to speculate on the timing of getting contracts done,” Rooney said, according to Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “T.J.’s certainly a great young player that we’re hopeful and optimistic that he’s going to be around here for a long time.”

For the Steelers to sign Watt to a contract extension this coming offseason such a transaction would go against the grain of franchise practices when it comes to the team’s former first-round draft picks selected under the current CBA. In short, all first-round draft picks under the current CBA come with fifth-year options that can be exercised prior to the start of a player’s fourth and final year of his rookie contract.

Since that fifth-year option became an option in the current CBA, the Steelers have utilized it several times and on the likes of Heyward, guard David DeCastro, inside linebacker Ryan Shazier and Dupree just a year ago. Even though Watt had a hugely successful 2019 season, he’ll likely have to wait until next offseason to cash in on what could ultimately be a contract that results in him being the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player.

In the coming months, the Steelers will obviously pick up Watt’s fifth-year option for 2021, which should come with a price tag of more than $10 million for that season. In the meantime, however, Watt is scheduled to earn $1,727,565 in 2020. Assuming he doesn’t sign an extension this offseason, the Steelers will have him for the 2020 season at an extremely high discount based on how he’s played so far in his first three years in the NFL. That’s not the Steelers fault, however, so Watt will likely just have to wait a little longer to get his monumental payday.

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