The Steelers and Diontae Johnson reached an agreement on a 2-year extension on Thursday in what was an unexpected move, to say the least. Still, it is a good thing to see Johnson back with the Steelers. This was a Pro Bowl receiver who went over 1,000 yards last season. Not only that, but Johnson is a fantastic route runner and has some of the best releases in the NFL. Simply put, the Steelers are adding someone into the room that is a proven high-level NFL receiver.
However, where does this contract actually stand among not just the 2019 NFL Draft class of wide receivers, but the entire receiver market? When looking at it like that, it makes complete sense why the Steelers would do this deal. Johnson is a talented receiver who could have received more on the open market if he wanted to.
It seems that both sides had a desire to work this out. Johnson was adamant that he wanted to stay in Pittsburgh while general manager Omar Khan was adamant that the Steelers wanted Johnson to stay with the team. If the Steelers were to work out the deal, it would have to be somewhat team-friendly, and this is.
Diontae Johnson on a Team-Friendly Deal
The deal did not have to be this team-friendly. Johnson was good enough to go on the open market and likely see himself reach near D.J. Moore’s annual $20.6 million a year in salary. Instead, Johnson shaved off over $2 million of what could be a potential deal on the open market. It speaks to the want of Johnson to be a Steeler long-term, but also makes sure that the Steelers look good on the league sheet.
Johnson’s contract lands between Christian Kirk’s $18 million per year contract and Michael Thomas’s $19.25 million per year. That’s a great deal for Johnson to be between. Kirk has never had a 1,000-yard season in his career. In fact, many of the players in Johnson’s area have not eclipsed 1,100 yards as he did in 2021.
There are some that fit that mold, such as Mike Evans, who has a steal of a contract. However, there are others, such as Hunter Renfrow, who have never broken that barrier. Johnson comes in as the 2nd lowest paid of the 2019 NFL Draft receivers. That is probably the right place in the hierarchy for Johnson, but the fact that his deal still did not even touch $20 million is a big win for the Steelers.
The Steelers are getting a top-25 receiver for around the lower end of his value. It is a win for Johnson, too. Make no mistake, Johnson comes out of this on the winning side. After all, his contract is nearly all guaranteed and it is a short-term contract. For the Steelers, it is near as if they are paying two franchise tags for Johnson, which could have been the plan of action anyways. However, now there are no restrictions that come with the franchise tag nor the uncertainty.
Both sides in this deal end up feeling secure. For a professional route runner like Johnson who is irreplaceable to the Steelers as a whole, this deal is a great win for the Steelers. Khan and Mike Tomlin should not only be happy, but elated that this was the deal that ended up being signed.