Exactly 60 days from today, the Pittsburgh Steelers will play their first game of the 2021 regular season against the Buffalo Bills and thus by then we’ll know for sure if outside linebacker T.J. Watt has signed a contract extension and one that could potentially result in him being the highest paid defensive player in the NFL. Like many of us who follow the Steelers closely, former NFL agent Joel Corry, who currently writes for CBS Sports, believes Watt will indeed reset the market when it comes to edge rushers by week 1 of the regular season.
In his latest offering on CBS Sports, Corry took a close look at the best candidates to set new standards this summer with new deals and not surprisingly, he has Watt listed among them. Below is what Corry penned about Watt and a potential new deal for him later this offseason.
“The Steelers are expected to sign T.J. Watt to an extension before the regular season starts. Watt’s average yearly salary could be closer to the $30 million-per-year mark than Joey Bosa’s $27 million per year. Bosa’s salary guarantee marks are safe because Pittsburgh veteran contracts have a vanilla structure. With the exception of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the only guaranteed money is a signing bonus. Roethlisberger’s guarantees have been for injury only. Pittsburgh sticking to its typical structure may make it necessary to give Watt a record signing bonus for a non-quarterback, which is currently $40 million by Rams interior defensive lineman Aaron Donald. Nick Bosa becoming the NFL’s first $30 million-per-year non-quarterback isn’t out of the realm of possibility in 2022 provided he displays the form that made him the 2019 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in his return from the torn left ACL he suffered in the 49ers’ second game last season.”
If you have read my thoughts on Watt this entire offseason, you know they match those of Corry. Barring something totally unforeseen at this point, I totally expect Watt to enter Week 1 of the 2021 regular season with a newly signed contract that includes a new money average somewhere between $28-$30 million.
Watt is currently slated to earn $10.089 million in 2021 as part of the team picking up his fifth-year option and that’s what his cap number currently is for the upcoming season as well. As Corry indicated, because of the way the Steelers usually like to structure lucrative contracts for non-quarterbacks, that’s one reason why Watt’s new money average could wind up closer to $30 million than to the $27 million average that Joey Bosa now has as a result of the new deal that he signed last offseason with the Los Angeles Chargers.
As Corry told me during a recent interview I conducted with him on The Terrible Podcast, we could very well see Watt get a signing bonus as high as $45 million later this summer. If that winds up being the exact amount of the signing bonus, Watt’s current 2021 cap charge of $10.089 million might remain unchanged if the team also gives the outside linebacker a base salary of $1.089 million for the upcoming season.
Should Watt wind up signing a five-year extension later this summer, the total amount of the deal, which would then run through the 2026 season, would likely be between $150-$160 million.
Expect to start hearing more about a potential contract extension for watt once the Steelers report to training camp later in July. At this point, it would be quite a surprise if Watt doesn’t sign an extension in the next 60 days.