Steelers Extend T.J. Watt on $112 Million Deal – Contract Details and Analysis

By Anthony Haage in Sports
| September 11, 2021 12:41 am PDT

The Steelers paid their man. T.J. Watt had a great season last year and earned a huge contract, which makes him the highest paid player on the defensive side of the ball.

Watt certainly has been one of the best pass rushers in the league since making his debut in 2017. The extension comes at the conclusion of his rookie contract and keeps him under the Steelers’ control through the 2025 season.

T.J. Watt’s Contract Breakdown

In short, the contract is a four-year extension worth $112,011,000.

The deal has some other details as well, including a hefty amount of guaranteed money at $80 million. He also gets a $35 million signing bonus, while his base salary for the 2021 season is just $1 million.

His average annual cap hit is just over $28 million per season, but here is how it will look year by year.

Year CAP Hit
2021 $8 million
2022 $31 million
2023 $27 million
2024 $28.05 million
2025 $28.05 million

Now this deal makes Watt the highest paid player on an annual basis. He is not the player with the highest contract value. He is actually sixth in that category.

Here is a list of the five other players who have higher dollar amounts on their contracts (but not as high as Watt’s annual earnings).

  • Khalil Mack – OLB, Chicago Bears ($141 million)
  • Aaron Donald – DT, Los Angeles Rams ($135 million)
  • Joey Bosa – DE, Los Angeles Chargers ($135 million)
  • Myles Garrett – DE, Cleveland Browns ($125 million)
  • Von Miller – OLB, Denver Broncos ($114.1 million)

T.J. Watt’s Impact on the Steelers So Far

Obviously, there is a good reason for Watt’s big extension.

He led the league in sacks and tackles for loss in 2020, two of the most important defensive stats. It really helped make his case for the extension.

He also added two forced fumbles, one interception, seven pass deflections, 41 QB hits, and 53 combined tackles (43 solo tackles). He had an amazing season in 2020 and he still missed one game, which he could have added a sack or two in.

Why he didn’t win the 2020 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, nobody knows.

Watt is not a one hit wonder, either. He did make the First Team All-Pro in 2020, but he also did that last year. He has also made the Pro Bowl in three of his four career years in the NFL.

His rookie season, Watt had his lowest sack total of any of his years, but it was still a decent number for a rookie. He had seven sacks that year, which is very hard for a rookie to do.

His second season showed some big improvement, registering 13 sacks and also increasing his QB hits mark from 13 to 21. The improvement didn’t stop there either. As a matter of fact, Watt has increased his sack total, tackles for loss, and QB hits total year after year.

Will this season be the one where he caps out those numbers, or does he keep improving?

If he can simply just repeat his 2020 stats, the Steelers would be more than happy with his contract. Watt is going to be a dominant force from the Steelers edge and will try and prove to be worth it.

Should Pittsburgh Have Paid Watt?

Now, being worth this expensive contract is no easy task.

Watt is being paid as the best edge threat in the NFL, so he’s going to have to produce at that same level. The Steelers have dominated in the sack category as a team with Watt leading the way.

They will likely stay at the top or at least near the top because of this contract.

An interesting note here is that Watt had a great season, not only because of his own talent, but because of Bud Dupree on the opposite end. Dupree was a solid enough counterbalance to Watt, meaning offensive lines couldn’t just double team Watt every play.

With Dupree signing a contract in Tennessee, Watt will miss his pass rushing buddy.

The Steelers have opted to replace Dupree with veteran ex-Charger Melvin Ingram, who still has great pass rushing ability himself. He might be a perfect replacement for Dupree if he can stay healthy.

These huge contracts can do good things for your team, or terrible things to your team. You never want to overpay a player to where you can’t afford a solid supporting cast around them and hurt your team in the long run.

I don’t think that is the case with Watt, as the contract is a four year extension, instead of the mega extensions we have recently seen – some more than 10 seasons long.

The Steelers’ solidified their pass rush yet again and Watt will be terrorizing quarterbacks for another five years.

Steelers’ 2021 NFL Season Outlook

Like I said, the departure of Dupree is not all that terrible with the Steelers adding Melvin Ingram. Ingram should be enough to keep Watt from being double teamed too often and keep him racking up the sacks.

As far as the Steelers go as an entire team, they look to be underrated coming into this season.

After an incredible winning streak to start the season, they had a major falling out and were embarrassed in the playoffs. They should be a solid team coming into this season, despite their terrible end to 2020.

The reason I say they are underrated is because of the lack of noise around them. They still have all their core pieces and could be a sneaky team to make the playoffs again, or even the division.

Locking up their best defensive player certainly doesn’t hurt their case to make a playoff push in 2021, either.

Check out some other posts affiliated with the Steelers and the AFC North.

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