Well find out in a little more than a week from now if Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt will be voted the 2020 AP Defensive Player of the Year. He certainly deserves to win the award for his play this past season but even if doesn’t, he can still expect the Steelers to reward him financially at some point during the offseason.
On Thursday, Steelers team president Art Rooney II held his annual end-of-the-season press conference and after that he sat down with Bob Pompeani of KDKA-TV for an interview. During that interview, Rooney was asked about Watt and how big of a priority it will be this offseason to get the team’s former first-round draft pick out of Wisconsin signed to an extension this coming offseason.
“In terms of T.J. Watt, it’s a good problem to have,” Rooney said. “We’re obviously going to do what we need to do to make sure he stays on the team into the future.”
Rooney’s response is not a bit surprising. After all, Watt had his fifth-year option picked up by the Steelers last offseason and that process is usually followed by an extension the following the offseason. Watt, by the way, is now scheduled to earn $10.089 million in 2021 as a result of his fifth-year option exercised by the Steelers in 2020.
What might be surprising this offseason, and especially when it comes to Watt, is how the Steelers wind up structuring his contract extension. Rooney hinted at such on Thursday during his talk with the media when asked if the team might have to reconsider how they structure contracts this offseason due to impact of the pandemic on the NFL’s 2021 salary cap. In short, we could potentially see Watt get more than just his first-year money of his new contract fully guaranteed so that the Steelers can keep his 2021 cap charge as low as possible. Usually, the Steelers only provide full guarantees past the first year for franchise quarterbacks.
Regardless of how the Steelers wind up structuring Watt’s new contract, go ahead and mark it down that he’ll get one by the start of the 2021 regular season. Usually, the Steelers get these mega contract extensions for non-quarterbacks done after training camp gets underway. However, the team’s salary cap situation could wind up forcing them to get Watt done prior to the new league starting in March and especially if the result of such an extension can lower Watt’s 2021 scheduled salary cap charge of $10.089 million considerably.
What will Watt’s final contract numbers ultimately look like come the start of the 2022 regular season? Let’s just say that he should wind up averaging roughly $30 million annually after he signs his extension and that he should be the NFL’s highest paid defensive player entering the 2021 regular season. Like Rooney told Pompeani on Thursday, Watt is a good problem for the Steelers to have this offseason and that means they will more than take care of that problem from a financial standpoint.