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Comparing T.J. Watt’s Contract to Other Top Edge Rusher Deals

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The deal has been sealed. T.J. Watt and the Steelers officially agreed to a monster 4-year, $112 million contract extension that will keep him in Pittsburgh through the 2025 season. Perhaps the most surprising figure of the entire thing is that the Steelers gave out the largest amount of guaranteed money in the franchise’s history. With $80 million of that $112 million guaranteed, it would appear that the Steelers have caved somewhat on their guaranteed money policy.

For reference on the monster nature of this deal, Joey Bosa was given a five-year, $135 million deal in 2020 by the Los Angeles Chargers. Watt is officially now the highest-paid defensive player in football. The guaranteed money exceeds that of Bosa, as well. Bosa was guaranteed $78 million at the start of the deal compared to Watt’s $80 million. Watt’s camp has a big win here in this regard.

Taking a look at another monster deal, Myles Garrett was paid $125 million over five years from the Cleveland Browns. In due time, he has fallen all the way down to the third highest-paid edge rusher in football. Garrett had a measly $43.5 million guaranteed at the inception of the deal. The Browns reset the deal with the per-year mark, but Bosa reset the market with his guarantees total. Watt has simply grown upon what Bosa set up for him a year ago.

The devil is in the details with this contract if you will. Watt has effectively reset the market on both fronts. In addition, he got the Steelers to crack on their guaranteed amount. However, that does not mean he got them to crack on their contract structure. Bosa, for example, has guaranteed spread out through the 2022 season. If history tells the tale, the Steelers are unlikely to follow this model.

In all likelihood, a lot of that $80 million is still going to be a signing bonus. Now, that does mean $70 million, but it would not be a surprise to see half of that over even up to $50 million. The big rule for the Steelers is that they have often not guaranteed money past the first year of a contract. However, that appears to be changing. There are extremes where they could keep that precedent, but it would be wise on their part to spread that out. Very likely, it will be guaranteed through two years.

So, in a way, the Steelers budged on their structure. However, it is unlikely they completely shattered everything around that precedent. It does give them more flexibility in future deals, but it would be a pretty big upset to see the Steelers guarantee anything beyond two years in the near future.

Even still, Watt got the Steelers to cave on two things. One, he hits the market earlier with only four years on this deal. Garrett and Bosa were locked up for five years, but Watt hits the market a year earlier than both of them. On the other hand, he also got a high amount of guaranteed money. No matter how it is structured, Watt came out of this good.

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