At this point, a record-breaking contract for one Trent Jordan Watt is nothing more than a formality.
After landing with the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 30 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, T.J. Watt has developed into arguably the best pass rusher in the NFL, racking up 49.5 career sacks in just 62 games, providing the Steelers with a fearsome pass rusher off the edge once again.
Now, with his fifth-year option picked up by the Steelers for $10.089 million for the 2021 season, Watt awaits a massive pay day, one that he says he’s not going to talk about for the time being.
Between now and the start of the 2021 regular season, which is roughly 86 days away, there’s a great chance the Steelers and Watt come to an agreement on a long-term contract extension that makes Watt the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL, giving him the salary to go with his top-notch play.
That will make Steelers fans happy, and will make NFL.com’s Gil Brandt happy too, as Brandt recently placed Watt at No. 2 in his recent piece listing 12 players on rookie deals whose teams should never let them go.
Watt slots in just behind Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen on the list of players who Brandt says, “have proven so key to their respective team’s success that they should never be allowed to hit free agency.”
As for Watt, Brandt had this to say about the All-Pro outside linebacker.
“Move over, Ben Roethlisberger; T.J. Watt is about to become the highest-paid player in Steelers history, and deservedly so. Watt led the NFL in sacks last season (15) and ranks third in that category since he entered the NFL in 2017, with 49.5, behind only Aaron Donald (57.5) and Chandler Jones (50),” Brandt writes. “Extending Watt this offseason could allow the Steelers to lower Watt’s cap number in 2021 (currently $10.1 million) and push money into the future, when there will be more room as veterans like Roethlisberger, Joe Haden and David DeCastro (both entering contract years) potentially come off the payroll. Watt will be crucial to keeping the team competitive whenever it transitions out of the Roethlisberger era. (Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who can be retained through 2022 on his rookie deal, is another extension-eligible defender to keep an eye on.)”
At this point with Watt, the only questions are the length of the deal and the annual cap hit. There’s simply no way the Steelers and General Manager Kevin Colbert even come close to sniffing free agency.
Once the two sides come to an agreement, Watt’s extension should come in around $28 million a year, which would make him the highest-paid defensive player in the league, just ahead of Los Angeles Chargers’ defensive end Joey Bosa at $27 million a season. Watt’s new deal should also help give him roughly $40-$45 million in new money in 2021, as Dave Bryan previously wrote.
With a new contract soon to be in hand, Watt can focus on the 2021 season — a year in which he should move into at least top 5 all-time in Steelers’ career sacks history, passing names such as Greg Lloyd, LaMarr Woodley, and Keith Willis, with the potential to pass Joey Porter as well.