Pittsburgh Steelers star pass rusher T.J. Watt enters the final year of his rookie contract. The runner-up AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year is due a hefty pay raise.
Ahead of the Steelers mandatory minicamp this week, contract talks aren’t something Watt is willing to discuss at this stage.
“With respect to the process, I’m not going to be talking about any contract stuff,” Watt said Tuesday morning, via NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala.
Watt is due to make $10.089 million on the fifth year of his rookie contract, pittance for his production. The 26-year-old led the NFL with 15 sacks in 2020 in addition to 41 QB hits — also most in the NFL (the next closest had eight fewer).
Currently, 24 edge defenders are scheduled to make more money this season than Watt. The Steelers star is at least $10 million underpaid at this moment. Joey Bosa sits atop the pass-rusher market, having signed a deal worth a $27 million per-year average. Myles Garrett averages $25 million per season.
Watt should join that group at some point.
One reason the Steelers were forced to let Bud Dupree walk in free agency — outside of their bad salary cap situation this year — was knowing they would have to shell out to keep Watt, too. The club couldn’t pay both. Dupree signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract ($16.5 million per) with the Titans in March.
Watt finished second in DPOY voting to Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The Steelers edge rusher said getting edged out for the award isn’t what’s pushing him in 2021.
“I don’t think it’s driving me,” he said, via Brooke Pryor of ESPN. “Big thing for me is realizing all the plays I didn’t make last year. Yeah, there’s a lot of good from last year, but there’s still a lot to improve on.”
Entering his prime, Watt is in for a big season regardless of his contract status or any perceived chip on his shoulder from finishing No. 2 in DPOY voting. The big question in Pittsburgh will be who can take advantage of the attention on Watt on the opposite side of the ball with Dupree gone?
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