What kind of work remains on the 2021 offseason to-do list of the Pittsburgh Steelers with the start of the team’s annual training camp now less than four weeks away? That overall list likely includes the team signing outside linebacker T.J. Watt to a long-term contract extension at the top of it, according to speculation from Field Yates of ESPN.
Yates recently suggested one last move all 32 NFL teams will likely make before the end of the 2021 offseason and an extension for Watt was his choice for the Steelers. Below is the blurb from Yates on the Steelers and Watt.
The Steelers are set to enter 2022 with a boatload of cap space, quite the difference from the tightrope they had to walk this offseason. One way or another, Watt will be a Steeler next year, but extending him now is in line with how the organization has gone about its ways.
Watt is one of the five or so best defensive players in football and worth whatever contract he is paid. He’s that good. Pittsburgh has other notable free agents next year, including wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, and it’s never too early to get to work on key business.
That’s really an easy tap in for Yates as an extension for Watt in the next 70 days seems like a foregone conclusion at this point. In fact, one would think that only a serious injury suffered during training camp or the preseason by Watt is the only thing that would prevent him from signing a long-term contract extension prior to the team’s Week 1 road game against the Buffalo Bills.
Not surprisingly, Watt declined to answer a question about his contractual status when he met with the media during the team’s mandatory minicamp. After indicating that he would leave that part of the business to his representation, Watt went on to say that right now he’s only focused on getting himself ready for the 2021 season.
“I think more than anything, just want to be the best possible player that I can be, not only for myself, but for the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Watt said a few weeks ago. “I want to continue to make splash plays. I think a big thing for me is just noticing all the plays that I didn’t make last year and wishing that I could’ve converted on some forced fumbles and fumble recoveries and turnovers and sacks and all those types of TFL. Those splash plays we talk about. Yeah, there’s a lot of good from last year, but there’s also a lot of stuff that I want to continue to improve on.”
If things play out the way I think they will, Watt will sign a four- or five-year contract extension with the Steelers in the next 70 days and one that will result in him becoming the NFL’s highest paid defensive player. Such a contract is likely to have a new money average of at least $28 million and potentially a first year cashflow amount of around $43 million for 2021, which would be the total of his base salary, signing bonus and roster bonus, if given one. Personally, I see Watt’s extension totaling out at just over $150 million and him being under contract through the 2026 season.
The Steelers picked up Watt’s fifth-year option for the 2021 season well over a year ago and that resulted in him now being scheduled to earn $10.089 million. That’s his scheduled salary cap charge for the 2021 season as well and it will be tough to lower if he signs an extension like what I expect him to accept.