T.J. Watt is entering his fifth season in the NFL. He is currently scheduled to play under the fifth-year option of his rookie contract, but it’s taken as a given that the Pittsburgh Steelers will work out a contract extension with him before that happens, as is typical for any first-round pick they intend to carry beyond their rookie deal.
The only question is how many trucks the team will need to haul all the money they’re about to give him. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette thinks it will be surprisingly little, in contrast to virtually every other estimate any other outlet has projected.
In a chat last week, responding to a fan who had a “concern” about the prospect of paying him $28-30 million per season, he said that that is not going to happen. “His deal will be more in the 18-20 million a year range”, he wrote. “And it’s not just a defensive player; it’s a player at the most important position on the defense. And maybe the best OLB in the league”.
It is at this point that I would like to remind you that Myles Garrett received a five-year, $125 million extension last year with the Cleveland Browns, and Joey Bosa a short time after that signed a five-year, $135 million contract with the Los Angeles Chargers, resetting the market at $27 million.
It is really quite perplexing for Dulac to believe that Wattt would accept a 25 percent discount on what will likely be the single greatest money-making opportunity of his lifetime, and he really never even provides an explanation for his reasoning.
When it was pointed out to him during his latest chat this week that Garrett and Bosa make significantly more than $20 million per year, and was asked for his reasoning, he simply quipped that he’ll “inform the Steelers to start another savings account”.
Of course, the Steelers have a history of paying top or near-top market values for their truly transcendent players. Players such as Troy Polamalu, Antonio Brown, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Stephon Tuitt, Cameron Heyward, and others have been paid at or near the highest at their positions at one point or another in their careers when their contract was signed.
Watt just happens to be at the second-most profitable position in the game short of the quarterback position — and they did give Ben Roethlisberger a $34 million-per-year extension in 2019, which was also near the top of the market.
I would be very curious to hear Dulac’s reasoning behind his belief that Watt would accept at least a 20 percent discount on Garrett’s deal, a player who was drafted in the same year and whom he has outperformed without smashing anybody in the head. Garrett was the first overall pick, but that seems irrelevant in this comparison — as would the notion that one is a defensive end and the other an outside linebacker. I’m sure Watt’s agent is smarter than that.