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NFL Draft

How Much Could T.J. Watt’s Contract Extension Be Worth?

  • The Draft Network
  • August 13, 2021
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How Much will T.J. Watt's Contract Extension Be?

Back in 2017 just prior to the 2017 NFL Draft, T.J. Watt was known more as J.J. Watt’s little brother than he was for his own accomplishments. Now, that’s not to say the younger Watt didn’t create a legacy of his own coming out of college. After all, he was still a first-round pick. But since being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 30th overall pick that draft weekend, T.J. has completely shed the shadow of his older brother and is now standing tall next to him.

Watt registered seven sacks in his rookie season, which would be a great start to a career for any pass rusher. Since then he’s recorded 13, 14.5, and 15-sack seasons all in a row, with nominations for Defensive Player of the Year throughout.

There’s no need to even mention J.J.’s name when talking about T.J. anymore. Watt is one of the best defensive players in the league—period—regardless of what his last name is. And at 26 years old, it feels like he’s only getting started. Last season, on top of yet another career-high in sacks, Watt generated 55 pressures, 41 QB hits, and 23 tackles for loss. Just insane production for any player.

With Watt coming off three straight years of stellar production still on a rookie deal, he’s currently “holding in,” a term some have coined to say that a player is reporting to training camp, as to not get fined, but not practicing due to a contract dispute. Watt is currently on the fifth and final year of his rookie deal, which pays him a little more than $10 million. That number is a lot more than he was previously making, but still not anything close to his value.

So what is his value, and what could we expect from Watt’s next contract?

Watt is the next in line for what will be a pass-rusher mega deal. With his production, his contract comparisons are the names at the very top of the list. When Myles Garrett signed his five-year, $125 million extension, he was 24 years old. When Joey Bosa signed his five-year, $135 million extension, he was 25 years old. Watt turns 27 in October, but him being slightly older shouldn’t matter at all. What matters is the production, and Watt has been better than both of those players. With that said, we have to expect an extension for Watt should come in the five-year, $130 million range, maybe even higher and market-setting if Watt gets what he could demand.

Khalil Mack signed the biggest pass rusher deal ever at six years, $141 million. The yearly average of that contract has since been surpassed by Garrett and Bosa, but that sheer total could be something Watt shoots for, too. What might be even more important to monitor with Watt would be the guarantees. When Bosa signed, $102 million of his $135 million contract came in practical guarantees. With Mack, $90 million of his deal was in practical guarantees. If Watt is going to set the record in any category, it should be this one, with something close to $105-110 million in practical guarantees—while also potentially setting the market in guaranteed at signing with something at or north of $80 million (slightly higher than Bosa’s $78 million guaranteed at signing).

Those are the kind of numbers we’re talking about when it comes to projecting Watt’s next contract. It’s not a matter of “if” it will be market setting, it’s in how many categories will it be market setting. 

No matter what, it will be well deserved for one of the best football players in the game today.

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