While Kevin Colbert’s trip to the 2022 NFL Combine is of course focused on this year’s draft, Colbert did comment on one non-draft related matter. Speaking to reporters today, he outlined to our own Jonathan Heitritter Diontae Johnson’s contract status and the odds of him receiving an extension.
Colbert said they won't address Diontae Johnsons contract until after the draft. Even then, it isn't a given they will extend him. #Steelers
— Jonathan Heitritter (@J_Heits) March 1, 2022
“Everybody that’s one year out, we don’t do a business with them most of the time until we get through our current business,” Colbert said. “Which is unrestricted free agency, then the draft and usually then we’ll move into that group. But it’s not a given. It’s not a hard line but that’s usually when we’ve taken care of that business.”
For clarification, it sounds like Colbert’s “not a given” is referring to the timeline of an extension and not commentary on whether or not Johnson will receive one. Those exceptions have normally been reserved for QBs like Ben Roethlisberger, but Antonio Brown did sign his 2017 extension in February. Of course, Johnson isn’t yet at AB’s-then status.
Drafted in 2019, Johnson is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
Johnson is coming off a 2021 season that was much better than his drop-filled sophomore campaign in 2020. He finished this season with 107 receptions, his first triple-digit catch season, for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns. He was the team’s most consistent and explosive receiver and won at all levels of the field.
But Johnson did fade down the stretch and the drop issues that plagued him all of 2020 showed up to end 2021. Over his last five games of the season, including the playoff loss, Johnson failed to top 51 yards while struggling through multiple drops.
Of course, one big factor in whether or not Johnson receives an extension comes down to money. Here is how Dave Bryan summed up Johnson’s situation in a mid-January post.
“One would think that Johnson will be looking to get top 15 wide receiver money, at a minimum, during the offseason. Currently, Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp is the 15th-highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL with a new money average of $15.75 million. Will the Steelers value Johnson at that $15.75 million amount or more during the offseason? We shall see. If Johnson does ultimately sign a contract extension during the offseason, odds are good that a consummated deal would not happen until after the team reports to training camp.”
If Johnson is looking for something closer to top ten money, then the odds of a deal will decrease. To Colbert’s point, any possible extension almost certainly won’t take place until the summer and perhaps bleed into training camp.
Johnson is not currently the team’s highest priority. Minkah Fitzpatrick is likely to sign an extension this summer that will almost certainly make him the highest-paid safety in football. And by the time that and a possible Johnson extension come to fruition, Colbert won’t be GM of the Steelers anymore. So that’ll be a task for Omar Khan and whoever is replacing Colbert as the team’s GM (which of course, could be Khan, given the fact he’s interviewed).