At some point here in the next few months, Pittsburgh Steelers’ star outside linebacker T.J. Watt will receive a hefty raise from the Rooney family.
That much is guaranteed.
How much he’ll receive is still a question mark, but that doesn’t stop us from having fun discussing what his contract could look like, in terms of number of years, average yearly salary, and the amount of guarantees he’ll receive.
Bleacher Report was the latest outlet to take a shot at projecting Watt’s contract extension details, projecting the All-Pro pass rusher to receive a five-year, $145 million deal with a whopping $105 million in guarantees from the Steelers.
That projection may seem high, but Watt’s next deal should be somewhere in that neighborhood, guarantees aside, as the Steelers historically don’t mess around with guaranteed money.
Though there is the possibility that the Steelers let Watt play in 2021 on the final year of his deal and slap the franchise tag on him for the 2022 season like they did with Bud Dupree, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ron Cook said that’s not what either side wants at the moment.
“Talks between Watt and the Steelers will heat up this summer,” Cook writes. “The team has a policy of not negotiating once the regular season begins. … It’s always possible that the Steelers will allow Watt to play out his contract in 2021 and then put their franchise tag on him for 2022. That would assure that he’ll be with the team for two more seasons. But that tag isn’t what Watt or the Steelers want. Both sides want a long-term deal.”
Bleacher Report’s projection would put Watt at roughly $29 million a season, making him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL, resetting the market after Los Angeles Chargers star Joey Bosa signed for $27 million a year last July. There is the possibility that the Steelers could sign Watt to a six-year deal to help with potential restructures down the line, but there’s little question that he’ll become the hold the mantle of highest-paid defensive player in the NFL soon enough.
The only true question that remains with a Watt extension is what his 2021 cap charge looks like following an extension, as his cap charge is set to be $10.089 million this season. That number will be rather hard to lower for a guy like Watt, playing on a fifth-year option, unless the Steelers break tradition and really dive into the guaranteed portion of his new deal.
Do not be surprised though if Watt asks for roughly $30 million a year (he should) and really breaks the bank with the Steelers. That’s the cost of doing business when you draft and develop pass rushers the way the Steelers do, especially one the caliber of Watt.