As expected, the Pittsburgh Steelers are attempting to get outside linebacker T.J. Watt signed to a contract extension prior to the start of the 2021 regular season. Steelers team president Art Rooney II confirmed as much on Tuesday during a small media session.
“I try not to get optimistic or pessimistic,” Rooney said on Tuesday when asked whether he’s is confident the Steelers can get Watt extended in the next six weeks, according to Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Twitter. “I’ve seen these things go so many different ways over the years. We’re just going to do our best. Both sides want to get something done so that is a good thing.”
What Rooney said about Watt on Tuesday wasn’t a bit surprising as it’s long been speculated that the team would like to get their former first round draft pick out of Wisconsin signed to a long-term contract extension prior to week 1 of the 2021 regular season.
Currently, Watt is scheduled to earn $10.89 million in 2021 as part of the fifth-year option on his rookie contract being picked up over a year ago. If things go like most of us think they will, Watt will likely become the NFL’s highest paid defensive player in the next six weeks with a new money average of more than $28 million. That deal could have a new money average as high as $30 million.
If the Steelers do not stray from their longstanding contract structure principles for non-quarterbacks, Watt could potentially pocket a total of around $46.089 million in total when his base salary and signing bonus are added together. The Steelers typically don’t like to fully guarantee anything more than first-year money on lucrative long-term contract extensions for non-quarterbacks. We’ll see if they stray from this tradition with Watt in the next six weeks.
Should the Steelers and Watt ultimately fail to reach a contract extension agreement by week 1, the outside linebacker would then be poised to be franchise tagged next offseason before he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Quite honestly, I will be shocked if the Steelers don’t get Watt signed to an extension in the next six weeks.
Watt led the NFL in sacks (15), tackles for a loss (23), and quarterback hits (41) in 2020. He’s also a perennial NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate, finishing second and third in voting for the award the last two seasons.