On Thursday, Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt signed a massive four-year, $112 million extension to remain in Pittsburgh through at least 2025. It makes him the highest paid defensive player in league history.
The deal also made a different kind of history. The Steelers made a major change to the way the Steelers do things. They don’t fully guarantee contracts beyond the first year. More accurately, they didn’t. They are fully guaranteeing THREE years of the Watt deal.
PFT has obtained the full details regarding the Watt deal. Here they are, per a source with knowledge of them.
1. Signing Bonus: $35.0 million.
2. 2021 Base Salary: $1.0 million, fully guaranteed.
3. 2022 Base Salary: $24.0 million, fully guaranteed.
4. 2023 Base Salary: $20.0 million, fully guaranteed.
5. 2024 Base Salary: $21.05 million.
6. 2025 Base Salary: $21.05 million.
The deal averages $28 million per year in new money, $1 million more than the previous high-water mark set by Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa. It also becomes the largest full guarantee for a defensive player in NFL history, at $80 million. (Bosa has a full guarantee of $78 million and an effective guarantee of $102 million.)
This year, Watt was due to make $10.1 million. He’ll now make $36 million. (Bosa got $43 million in the first year.)
Watt will make $60 million over the first two years; Bosa gets $56.75 million, and Bears linebacker Khalil Mack got $56.5 million. Browns defensive end Myles Garrett receives $43.546 million in the first two years of his contract.
Through three years, Watt will get $80 million. Bosa will receive $78 million, Mack gets $73.7 million, and Garrett will earn $62.546 million.
Bosa’s cash flows surpasses the Watt deal in years on the back end; $102 million versus $101.05 million through four and $124 million versus $122.1 million through five.
Also, Watt signed only a four-year extension. He’s under contract one fewer year than Bosa and Garrett, and two fewer years than Mack. The full duration of the deal (five years) means he’ll possibly get another crack at another major deal by the time he turns 30.
Bottom line? Watt got what he deserved, and he got the Steelers to abandon one of their longstanding rules of contract negotiation. It will be interesting to see whether it’s an aberration or a trend.