It’s a good year to be a receiver in line for a payday. After the megadeals signed by the likes of Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, Mike Williams, and even “lesser” receivers like Christian Kirk, the only thing hotter than the real estate market is the wide receiver one. Entering the final year of his deal with a possible contract extension this summer, Diontae Johnson can’t ignore the money those other guys have gotten. But for now, he’s focused on controlling what he can control, starting with today’s first day of mandatory minicamp.
“I’m just here to work,” he told reporters Tuesday morning as shared by 93.7 The Fan. “Do what I’m told, get the job done. That’s pretty much my focus.”
Johnson told reporters he was going to practice today, though it isn’t entirely clear in what capacity. Johnson was asked if he would follow a similar approach as T.J. Watt, who “held-in” last summer during training camp while his agent and the team hammered out a then-record deal. Watt showed up to camp but did not practice in team sessions, often working on the side by himself after going through individual drills.
Johnson could follow a similar path. But he isn’t assured to receive an extension the way Watt was last year or Minkah Fitzpatrick this year. Meaning, it’s possible he approaches this camp like all the others, showing up and working in full each and every day. Pittsburgh isn’t likely to start serious contract negotiations with Johnson until later in the summer. Any new deal for Johnson would likely pay him at least $20 million average yearly value, the going rate for the position this offseason.
Johnson has served as the team’s #1 receiver, and though he faded a bit down the stretch, still had an excellent 2021 campaign. Pittsburgh will have to determine if he’s worth all that money. If not, unless the Steelers use the franchise tag, he’ll hit free agency next March.
He admitted he’s watched others get paid this offseason, and though he hopes to be next in line, he can’t get too caught up in deals around the league.
“It’s not like you don’t see it, you see it,” he said of the receiver market. “It’s like the bell rings in your head like, ‘Oh, such and such got this and such and such got that.’ But I try not to look at that or pocket watch and stuff like that.”
Though Johnson wisely did not say much about his situation, he made it clear he wants to remain a Steeler.
“I wanna be here. I’m patient. I’m just gonna keep working.”
He has certainly done all the “right” things during this process. Though he wasn’t present for all the team’s voluntary OTA practices, he did show up for a couple of them and he’s obviously reported to mandatory minicamp without issue. He’s been largely quiet on social media and hasn’t demanded a trade like other receivers around the league. One of Omar Khan’s first real decisions is determining Johnson’s future with the team, a question that may be partially impacted by Johnson’s asking price.