At some point before the 2021 NFL regular season gets underway, Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt should have a new contract in hand as the former first-round draft pick out of Wisconsin is entering the fifth-year option of his rookie contract that has scheduled to earn $10.067 million this season.
While Watt has yet to win the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year Award since entering the league, you could make strong arguments the last two seasons that he should have had. Hardware-less and all, Watt is still one of the NFL’s best edge rusher hands down the last three seasons and Pro Football Focus made it a point to highlight that on Wednesday.
Highest graded EDGE since 2018:
1. Khalil Mack – 92.5
2. T.J. Watt – 91.7
3. J.J. Watt – 91.1 pic.twitter.com/EYV92jCwG8
— PFF (@PFF) March 3, 2021
Per PFF, Watt registered a defensive grade of 91.6 during the 2020 season on his way to registering 53 tackles, 43 solo tackles, 15 sacks, and an interception. Quite impressive numbers and especially when you consider that he was only played in 15 games as he was held out of the regular season finally to ensure he would be healthy for the playoffs.
Since 2018, PFF has Watt down for a defensive grade of 91.7 and as far as edge rushers are concerned, only Khalil Mack of the Chicago Bears has posted a higher grade 92.5. In those three seasons, Watt managed to register 42.5 sacks, 176 total tackles, 98 quarterback hits, 49 tackles for loss, three interceptions, 18 passes defensed and 16 forced fumbles.
— Steelers Depot 🎄 (@Steelersdepot) February 20, 2021
Not surprisingly, older brother J.J. Watt is just behind T.J. Watt since 2018 with a grade of 91.1. The elder Watt, who was released by the Houston Texans several weeks ago, signed a two-year, $31 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday.
How much will the youngest Watt brother get from the Steelers later this summer? I’ve speculated for months now that T.J. Watt will become the NFL’s highest paid defensive player by the start of the 2021 regular season. Accomplishing that feat would mean that the outside linebacker would need to have a new money average greater than $27 million, which is wat Joey Bosa got last season from the Los Angeles Chargers.
In closing, don’t be surprised if T.J. Watt signs a new deal over the summer with a new money average of $30 million, or close to it. I’m pretty sure that PFF won’t be surprised when and if that happens.