Steelers’ stubbornness on guarantee structure could blow up T.J. Watt talks

Pittsburgh Steelers v Jacksonville Jaguars
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We recently pointed out that Pittsburgh has two informal contract rules that could complicate the negotiations with linebacker T.J. Watt. Apparently, they could crater them.

Via Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Media, the Steelers’ refusal to offer full guaranteed beyond the first year of a veteran contract is “threatening to sink” the Watt negotiations.

Aditi adds that she was optimistic about the chances of a deal getting done last week, but that she’s now less optimistic.

The clock is ticking. Loudly. Watt’s hold-in, which has been permitted by the team, threatens to wipe out his availability for Week One. And that’s when another Pittsburgh informal rule becomes highly relevant — the team doesn’t do new contracts after the season starts.

So, at some point, the Steelers need to tell Watt that, if a deal can’t be done, it’s time to get to work. That’s when the concept of team-endorsed hold-ins collapses on itself. When the player who has shown up but who has not yet suited up is left with no choice but to play, what will he do?

We possibly will be finding out. Soon.

80 responses to “Steelers’ stubbornness on guarantee structure could blow up T.J. Watt talks

  1. This seems hopeless for the Steelers….please trade him to the (INSERT TEAM NAME HERE), my preferred team.

  2. He’s not going to hold out. Worst case scenario is that they franchise him next year. There are enough salary cap tricks, that I still think they’ll get this done in a way that satisfies the “highest paid defensive player” thing without hamstringing the team. Minkah’s deal might be more difficult.

  3. “Hold your ground Steelers. No single player is more important than the team.”
    -Aaron Rodgers

  4. With no gate money last year and the Rooneys not owning other businesses, is it possible they don’t have the cash because of last season?

    It’s already odd that their first non-bust OLB in years was not already paid after the 2019 seasons after out-performing his rookie deal. Teams should not wait becasue it gives the player a ton of leverage.

    Ben is overpaid which hurts this and they have numerous older, overpaid guys and they haven’t drafted well. Their O Line stinks, for example. Their secondary is overrated as well, but how are you not budgeted already for 2 guys you used 1st rd picks on?

    Fitzpatrick will now start commanding Jamal Adams money.

    As a Pats fan, I’m just loving the inpetitude of these GMs all over the league.

  5. The Steelers have a great history, but it’s time to adapt with the times. Otherwise, players aren’t going to want to go to Pittsburgh, unless it’s to make a name for themselves and cash in with an organization that’s not stuck in the past. It’s time to evolve Mr. Rooney! Please keep an open mind and realize that, or the Steelers are going to be nothing but a farm team and constant revolving door in future years. Quit living in the past. Or prove me wrong with yet another “non-losing season” and try selling us on how that spells “success”.

  6. wondering how its almost always management who is being
    ‘stubborn on guarantees” and hardly ever the players.
    asking for lots of friends who are thoroughly confused

  7. Miami beckons.

    To Miami: TJ Watt

    To Pitt; 2022 1st, 2023 2nd, Andrew Van Ginkel

    Miami has quite a few younger players and additional draft picks we can mix into the deal to get it done.

    Van Ginkel would actually be a stellar replacement for Watt, on the cheap for 2 more years.

    Miami’s defense would be lights out. No one (outside of Miami fans) wants to see this actually happen.

  8. Combined in their careers Bosa, Watt, and Garrett have 1 playoff win. Lots of stats though. These guys are not Lawrence Taylor. They can’t win games, or lose them. No need to hamstring the cap for stats. Look at JJ watt NO playoff success either. Trade him for a few high picks. No need to get hamstrung like they did with Bens bloated contract.

  9. This is not about being paid. This is about “no guaranteed money except first year”.
    Standard Steeler policy. I don’t mind them sticking to their guns on that point.

  10. I love the armchair coaches, GM’s, and scouts. How they’re not employed by an NFL team is astonishing. The real world seems to get in their way quite often.

  11. Mr. Watt. The cash isn’t always greener with another helmet on. You can’t squeeze the Rooney’s so you better get a deal done.

  12. billshatnerstoupee says:
    September 7, 2021 at 5:14 pm
    I love the armchair coaches, GM’s, and scouts. How they’re not employed by an NFL team is astonishing. The real world seems to get in their way quite often.

    14 13 Rate This

    ——————

    Umm, there are only

    You Steelers homers are hilariously defensive and think everything the Steelers do is gold 365/24 hours a day. Quite comical for an adult.

  13. bostonblows says:
    September 7, 2021 at 5:01 pm
    Miami beckons.

    To Miami: TJ Watt

    To Pitt; 2022 1st, 2023 2nd, Andrew Van Ginkel

    Miami has quite a few younger players and additional draft picks we can mix into the deal to get it done.

    Van Ginkel would actually be a stellar replacement for Watt, on the cheap for 2 more years.

    Miami’s defense would be lights out. No one (outside of Miami fans) wants to see this actually happen.

    7 22 Rate This

    —————-

    You couldn’t afford Van Noy who is a superb 3-4 OLB, so you think you could afford to waste another 1st rder after the Tua pick and 20 mil per?

    lol

    Pleaae get to an intro the Finance course somewhere in awful Florida.

    BB ate your lunch this offseason and just bamboozled Grier. Hilarious.

    Thanks for Godchaux, Van Noy and Karras!

  14. What part of, “The Steelers have not had a losing season since 2003” do you not understand? Did the organization suddenly get infested by pod people?

    Their record suggests (a) they know more about running a football team than you do, and (b) they should get the benefit of any doubt until it becomes obvious they have made a mistake.

  15. abnotthatab says:
    September 7, 2021 at 5:01 pm
    wondering how its almost always management who is being
    ‘stubborn on guarantees” and hardly ever the players.
    asking for lots of friends who are thoroughly confused
    ——–
    So if the Steelers aren’t offering any guarantees past the first year of a contract while every other team is plus the fact that it means the team can cut the player after year 1 with no other hit what is the incentive for signing a long term deal with the Steelers? I mean essentially what the Steelers are offering is a prettied up version of the franchise tag that gives them control of a player for more than 1 year without having to pay the escalating guarantees teams pay for franchising a player a 2nd or 3rd time. I hope you’re not a player agent.

  16. The Steelers have about as long a run of success as any pro sports franchise I can think of, and it dates back to before TJ Watt was born.

  17. “The Steelers have about as long a run of success as any pro sports franchise I can think of, and it dates back to before TJ Watt was born.”

    TB6 is about to have an epic meltdown. Buckle up.

  18. His brother didn’t care about going to a winning team, he just went for the money…seems like TJ might do the same.

  19. I think that a blend of the old school, that has produced tons of success, and acknowledging the changes necessary in a modern league can be blended. It’s a little give and a little take. Full disclosure, not a Pittsburg fan, saw TJ play his college ball and not happy when the packers passed on him.

  20. touchback6 says:
    September 7, 2021 at 5:46 pm
    billshatnerstoupee says:
    September 7, 2021 at 5:14 pm
    I love the armchair coaches, GM’s, and scouts. How they’re not employed by an NFL team is astonishing. The real world seems to get in their way quite often.

    14 13 Rate This

    ——————

    Umm, there are only

    You Steelers homers are hilariously defensive and think everything the Steelers do is gold 365/24 hours a day. Quite comical for an adult.

    ————

    You mean the same way you act when someone bring up BB? Gotcha.

  21. billshatnerstoupee says:
    September 7, 2021 at 6:08 pm
    “The Steelers have about as long a run of success as any pro sports franchise I can think of, and it dates back to before TJ Watt was born.”

    TB6 is about to have an epic meltdown. Buckle up.

    2 3 Rate This

    ————————

    Umm, the 1980s Steelers were pitiful like they were for 40 years prior to the mid 1970s.

    lol

    No meltdown here. Just historical facts.

  22. Jimmypinthe416 says:
    September 7, 2021 at 6:32 pm
    touchback6 says:
    September 7, 2021 at 5:46 pm
    billshatnerstoupee says:
    September 7, 2021 at 5:14 pm
    I love the armchair coaches, GM’s, and scouts. How they’re not employed by an NFL team is astonishing. The real world seems to get in their way quite often.

    14 13 Rate This

    ——————

    Umm, there are only

    You Steelers homers are hilariously defensive and think everything the Steelers do is gold 365/24 hours a day. Quite comical for an adult.

    ————

    You mean the same way you act when someone bring up BB? Gotcha.

    3 0 Rate This

    —————-

    Nope. I’ve disagreed plenty and never said he is perfect. Me laughing at jealous hyenas like you, so jealous you believe myths about him to feel more secure about protecting Chuck Noll’s legacy in this case, is a lot different than me pretending BB is perfect.

    Put it this way, the bashing BB takes is the equivalent of bashing Van Gogh and pretending that made sense, too. You people are lunatics rife with a jealousy no one has ever seen in sports history.

    BB>Noll or Lombardi, Brown, Halas, Shula, etc.

    BB>>>>>>>>Colbert as GM.

    It’s been long over but only in your creepy little world do you buffoons keep bashing BB, like someone who needs therapy.

    Next you’ll tell us Mike Tomlin is a great coach like BB. bawahwah

  23. Also, big guy. The Steelers had fans in the 80s and the 40 years prior. The Patriots fan base didn’t exist until 2001.

  24. At first, I thought this deal would get done quickly, which would be nice for an already-talented defense; now, I’m thinking it may not get done at all. That’s OK. After all, I get it . . . the organization is “cheap.” But they have rules of business in which they live by. It’s easy for me to say, “Give TJ the guarantees he is seeking,” but none of this guaranteed money is coming out of MY pocket. (I know, I don’t get to reap the TV revenue either, but such is life.) I hope he signs, but if not, let him play out his current contract and make the “trade/franchise” decision in the spring of next year.

  25. Steelers have a long history of success? I’m over 40 and they’ve won 1 Super Bowl in my life time. Yes they’ll have a winning record, maybe make the play offs and have an early exit. Is that success? They haven’t won since they were far ahead of the curve with their Soviet style steroid program, but now that that’s illegal and it’s an even playing field they’re barely above average.

  26. Easy, show up – look terrible in practice. Force them to sit you for the games and either sign the tag next year and do the same until you get to UFA

  27. Same thing sunk the Leveon Bell deal as I recall. It was reported that they agreed on the overall dollar figure but wouldn’t guarantee anything past year one. The team held the line then we’ll see if they do it again.

  28. yourmother says:
    September 7, 2021 at 6:54 pm
    Steelers have a long history of success? I’m over 40 and they’ve won 1 Super Bowl in my life time. Yes they’ll have a winning record, maybe make the play offs and have an early exit. Is that success? They haven’t won since they were far ahead of the curve with their Soviet style steroid program, but now that that’s illegal and it’s an even playing field they’re barely above average.

    1 1

    —————-

    They won 2. Goodell rigged the first one for them since they got smoked vs Dallas in the more recent one and Ben was so bad in that first one, you probably forgot about that one.

    Steelers fans have been hanging onto a faux legacy that ended in 1979.

    They just can’t stand the fact the Pats have overtaken their status because it’s all being done in the Cap Era.

    They have that little Mid Atlantic/Midwest inferirority complex thing going.

  29. yourmother says:
    September 7, 2021 at 6:54 pm
    Steelers have a long history of success? I’m over 40 and they’ve won 1 Super Bowl in my life time
    —————————————————-
    Not true.

  30. yourmother says:
    September 7, 2021 at 6:54 pm
    Steelers have a long history of success? I’m over 40 and they’ve won 1 Super Bowl in my life time. Yes they’ll have a winning record, maybe make the play offs and have an early exit. Is that success? They haven’t won since they were far ahead of the curve with their Soviet style steroid program, but now that that’s illegal and it’s an even playing field they’re barely above average.

    ———-
    No team had been as unprepared for postseason games over the past 15 years. The Patriots have eaten the Steelers’ lunch so many times it’s almost a given

  31. The Steelers is pretty much offering a franchise tag contract year with more years of control of the player. They can still cut him after the first year. I have no clue why any player would sign with the Steelers unless they are desperate.

  32. @T6 said: “ Nope. I’ve disagreed plenty and never said he is perfect. Me laughing at jealous hyenas like you”

    Please child….there is no bigger BB apologist posing here than you.

  33. billshatnerstoupee says:
    September 7, 2021 at 6:50 pm
    Also, big guy. The Steelers had fans in the 80s and the 40 years prior. The Patriots fan base didn’t exist until 2001

    ———-

    The Patriots played in 2 SBs before 2001. As for me, I can still remember attending games as a kid when Jim Nance played. I’m pretty sure that was well before 2001

  34. Here’s the issue. The steelers making their own set of rules for how to handle players ONLY works if all players obey.

    So now rubber is hitting the road. And if I”m TJ Watt, I don’t bend. I stand my ground. He should be paid just as well as any other player on another team. Including guarantees.

    if the going rate for a player is, lets say, a deal that is 50% to 60% guaranteed, but the steelers have a rule they only do guarantees year 1, but also don’t have the cap room or cash to pay him that going rate all up front, thats their fault.

    The going rate is the going rate.

  35. They just can’t stand the fact the Pats have overtaken their status because it’s all being done in the Cap Era
    —————-
    This column has nothing to do with the Pats. Don’t you have some Brady bashing to attend to?

  36. All the great players in Steelers history and TJ Watt thinks he’s the player their going to break 40plus years of precedent for? What an arrogant tool

  37. Steeler articles attract Patriot fans like moths to a flame. The hysteria is great, I love reading this stuff.

  38. It would blow the cap, but if I’m the player, I say, “Fine. Put what other teams would guarantee over the life of the contract into year one. Then we both get what we want.”

    Steelers are just asking for players to leave. Franchise them if you must, but who would willingly sign with them? Reminds me of Bosa’s holdout with the Chargers after being drafted by them.

  39. minime says:
    September 7, 2021 at 6:22 pm

    NO NFL contract should ever be guaranteed.
    ……………………………………….

    I think they all should be guaranteed for the full term of the contract. What kind of contract says we might just be paying you only for the first year of the eight year contract, so don’t buy a house just yet?????

    .

  40. Football is a game where skills fade fast and injuries happen in the blink of an eye. The longer the guarantee the more likely that the team gets into cap trouble. So if TJ is so sure of his long-term viability why doesn’t he offer the team a buy out clause that the team can take at their discretion. Oh yeah! The team already has that in the form of not having to give guaranteed contracts!

  41. another thought: Watt should calculate how much he would earn if the team issued the guarantees he wants and take that dollar figure and say:

    “Fine, I want $Fake# in my signing bonus and first year salary and bonuses.”

    Let them sign him to multiple years if they want … the Steelers should pay the player for the ability to hold his rights un-guaranteed rights until the contract terminates.

    Maybe Curt Flood (RIP)should rise up to help TJ out.

  42. I don’t want to get in the middle of an infantile squabble but Shattner is off his game today. The Pats were actually bought by a fan who saved the team from a Budweiser heir who planned to move the team to St. Louis. That was 1996. I don’t think the canard that the Patriots didn’t have any true fans until 2001 holds water. Heck, I have been a fan since 1960.

    The Pats had some very good teams in the old AFC and post the 1966 merger. It’s true they were nomads until Schaefer Stadium opened and Plunkett started throwing bonbs to Randy Vataha. That was 1971 if I recall.

    Despite some truly horrible teams (four number one overall draft picks) the Pats had some excellent teams under Fairbanks in the 70s, Berry in the 80s and Parcells in the 90s.

    The team filled the seats with Parcells at the helm and went to their second super bowl. Kraft proved to be an excellent owner and Belichick the dominant coach over two decades, going to 9 super bowls, winning 6 in the free agency period designed to prevent dynasties.

  43. billshatnerstoupee says:
    September 7, 2021 at 7:24 pm
    A triggered TB6 is a dangerous TB6
    ——————
    Careful, you’re very close to being deemed a millennial.

  44. Go play and earn a retirement for your entire life just by playing football this year. Geez people.

  45. “Heck, I have been a fan since 1960.”

    You’re the only one then. 97% of the people that claim to be Patriot fans are no older than 25 years of age. I’ve watched this game for over 50 years and I’ve never witnessed a bigger bandwagon or more obnoxious fan base. The 70s Dallas fans and the 80s 49er fans combined aren’t as bad as you people.

  46. The Rooneys are the biggest frauds in sports. First of all, The Rooney Rule? Lol ok. We all know it should be called The Al Davis Rule. Just axe any minority. And they simply don’t value players. Their motto is pay bottom dollar. The Rooney’s are frauds.

  47. Many people complain that the Steelers are cheap. Just as many fans say that the Steelers will forever be in cap hell because of the contracts they give out. The truth is the Steelers spend closer to the cap than most teams every year. So they aren’t cheap. And they always seem to find a way to work through their ‘cap hell’ years without too much disruption to their overall success. So they aren’t stupid either. So I will worry about watching the games instead of all the background manipulations needed to field the team.

  48. As a Pats fan, I’m just loving the inpetitude of these GMs all over the league.

    NKeal Harry ring a bell Skippy ? You need to start watching football other than the Cheetahs…..might learn something.

  49. I have been watching NFL games for 63 years. The last 15 years by the Pats has been impressive, but before that they were a joke like the Steelers before Chuck Knoll. Since Knoll the Pats are behind the Steelers in winning percentage. Jim Nance. I met Babe Parelli….I grew up in Mass and never followed the scrub Pats. So the last 15 years is just 1/4 of the football I have watched. Pats have one with one coach and one Qb…Steelers have done it with THREE coaches and QBs so sonny I am not impressed with you kids and your now is better.

  50. If they aren’t going to guarantee more than 1 season of Watt’s deal they’re are about 25 other teams who will. So pony up or trade him cause he wants to be the highest paid defensive player and wants more guaranteed money than the last top guy who signed.

  51. Shatnerstoupee…Pats fan since ’60 here. Saw first game in 69 at Harvard Stadium vs. Unitas and Colts. Team has a checkered history, for sure, but there were earlier periods of success and the excellence for the past two decades is undeniable. One thing we take great comfort in is the fact that the Steelers had nothing to do with ending the dynasty but they had a lot to do with sustaining it with their repeated use of the Dick LeBeau Cover 2 defense. Thanks for that!

  52. Combined in their careers Bosa, Watt, and Garrett have 1 playoff win. Lots of stats though. These guys are not Lawrence Taylor. They can’t win games, or lose them. No need to hamstring the cap for stats. Look at JJ watt NO playoff success either. Trade him for a few high picks. No need to get hamstrung like they did with Bens bloated contract.
    _______________________
    Lets not pretend that the Giants defense was just LT. They were pretty stout all around.

  53. lewsblues says:
    September 7, 2021 at 7:30 pm
    minime says:
    September 7, 2021 at 6:22 pm

    NO NFL contract should ever be guaranteed.
    ……………………………………….

    I think they all should be guaranteed for the full term of the contract. What kind of contract says we might just be paying you only for the first year of the eight year contract, so don’t buy a house just yet?????
    ______________________________________

    So you agree with these players who play great the season before getting a big contract and then coasting until their next contract year? And there seems to be a whole lot of them now days.

  54. Slapshot says:
    September 7, 2021 at 6:52 pm
    At first, I thought this deal would get done quickly, which would be nice for an already-talented defense; now, I’m thinking it may not get done at all. That’s OK. After all, I get it . . . the organization is “cheap.” But they have rules of business in which they live by. It’s easy for me to say, “Give TJ the guarantees he is seeking,” but none of this guaranteed money is coming out of MY pocket. (I know, I don’t get to reap the TV revenue either, but such is life.) I hope he signs, but if not, let him play out his current contract and make the “trade/franchise” decision in the spring of next year.
    ______________________________________

    Why does everyone act like the TV contract is so huge? If you break it down it’s not really that much…. seriously! $10bil divided by 32 teams = $312.5mil and that if the league didn’t take a dime and we all know they take a huge cut of that money, now sure that $312.5mil sounds like a lot but put in perspective it doesn’t even cover the cost of owning a team with all the money a team puts out, a $200mil cap + coaches and assistances pay and benefits, health insurance for everyone, trainers, management pay and benefits, food and housing during training camp and for all away games(+ transportation), stadium upkeep, let me tell you this I bet last season hurt a whole lot of owners.

    That’s why if you’d take the team value off of the owners wealth over half of the league’s owners wouldn’t be anywhere close to being billionaires! The league overall makes billions but the owners don’t, I’d bet they’re lucky to make $150mil or so a year after all the costs.

  55. The players are the only thing that matter! Without them your left with 32 concert venues. TJ you are that guy! Don’t cower to people who want to keep your hard earned money for themselves. If nothing gets done by Thursday publicly ask for a Trade Friday (to Packers). File retirement papers if nothing is done by Saturday. You are that guy TJ……
    You are that guy

  56. Watt might be taking a look around and realizing that, on their very best day with all conditions being optimal, the Steelers might possibly be an 8-9 team that will come in third place in the AFC North and isn’t going to make the playoffs.

  57. TJ Watt is really good. But he’s not a super player. He never shows up for big games or the playoffs. I’ve never seen him finish off a game with a big play such as a sack, fumble recovery or something else.

    Many times in big games he takes himself out because of fatigue issues when the game is on the line.

    He’s not a Harrison, K.Greene, Lloyd or Lambert. Those guys were game changers.

  58. Such Cheapskates. They remind me of my Washington Nationals. Does the guy not deserve a huge pay day ?

    Not happy until all of the stars are gone. This is not the 1970’s anymore.

  59. This whole thing is unfortunate. I hope they can get a deal done soon. But if not, I guess the Steelers have Watt this year and then a couple tag years in an uneasy situation, unless Watt pulls a Bell and possibly ruins his career. If they have to use the tag, Watt will make a lot of money, just not insane money. I see points on both sides, but the team will be here long after all these players have moved on.

  60. Seems inevitable at this point that the Steelers will either need to compromise on their rules or trade him elsewhere. Based on his play the past few years, TJ clearly deserves the huge payday, and, given that he plays a relatively high-injury-risk position, should probably not be putting himself out there and risking the ~60 million gtd at signing he clearly has coming his way.

    Tough situation for everyone, but it’s a problem of the Steelers’ own making. When 31 teams do business one way and you’re the only outlier, you’re bound to run into these issues eventually. Not the first time, either.

  61. Principle is a noble thing unless you are surrounded by thieves waiting to pick your pocket and other GMs are certainly not far from that description. This really inhibits his trade value should they go that route because if he intends to break the bank you’re not going to get back what you hope for. Maybe 75-% but the other GM will say hey I gotta pay the guy you won’t, but also the guy you’re telling me is so good you want all these picks?! If you’re not going to pay what he wants, in a structure close to what he wants they should’ve been working phones and trying to get two firsts and some add ons and move along.
    IF, you’re not going to pay him..

  62. Guaranteed money is only ever a factor when the player is not worth what he’s due to be paid. If he is worth that money, he’ll be on the roster and he’ll be paid that money.

    The obsession of players with guaranteed money is very telling in that they insist on being paid even if they’re not actually earning that money.

  63. “bwdjr says:
    September 8, 2021 at 6:44 am
    Such Cheapskates. They remind me of my Washington Nationals. Does the guy not deserve a huge pay day?”

    Can you cite where anyone has reported that the Steelers are not willing to give Watt a “huge pay day”? The article explicitly says it’s about guarantees, not about the amount.

  64. re 6th sense
    if i was a player agent id be too busy to be on a message board.
    Watts has the right to not sign the contract. Only he can decide what is right for him.
    The steelers if operating intelligently will make an offer than they think is beneficial to themselves.
    Its gone on in negotiations for decades.
    He should exercise that right if he is willing to deal with the repercussions laid out in the CBA.
    Whether he plays or not the Steelers arent going anywhere this year.

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