At some point between now and the start of the 2021 regular season, the Pittsburgh Steelers should be able to get outside linebacker T.J. Watt signed to a contract extension. Assuming that happens, and there is no reason to think that it won’t, Watt, by easy speculation, should become the highest paid edge rusher in the league. Quite possibly, the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL at the same time.
What will Watt’s contract look like? Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report wrote on Thursday that he expects Watt to sign a five-year, $140 million deal this offseason. The math on that comes out to $28 million per year, and that would make Watt the highest paid defensive player in the NFL. Currently, Los Angeles Chargers edge rusher Joey Bosa holds that honor with a $27 million per year new money average.
Watt could quite possibly demand as much as $30 million per season as part of his upcoming extension. You couldn’t blame him if he does. That said, the lowest he’ll likely accept is $28 million, so Knox is indeed on the right path with his prediction.
Another factor that Knox did not consider includes the Steelers maybe wanting to lock Watt up for six years in total as part of making him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL. If the Steelers did go that route and Watt agreed to such a deal, the total of his new six-year deal would likely be at least a little more than $150 million. The former first round draft pick is currently due a little more than $10 million in 2021 as part of his fifth-year option being exercised last offseason.
Signing Watt to a five-year extension, six years in total, would allow the Steelers some room to work with as far as restructures go. We have seen them do this in the past with higher-value deals.
The most interesting thing related to Watt’s offseason extension revolves around what his new cap number for the 2021 season will ultimately be. Right now, it is set to be $10.089 million, and thus it will be hard to lower much, if any, as part of an extension unless the Steelers go away from their normal practices when it comes to guaranteed money amounts and structure.
Personally, I’m expecting Watt’s new deal to have a new money average somewhere between $28-$30 million and for his new 2021 cap charge to remain unchanged, or very close to it. I will have an example of what Watt’s new contract might look like in a future post.