Before training began Thursday, it was announced that the Pittsburgh Steelers had signed wide receiver Deontay Johnson for a contract extension. In the initial reports of the signing, Johnson Agreed to a two-year extension, $36.71 million That would keep WR under contract with Pittsburgh through the 2024 season. Johnson was on the books for $2,954,118 million in 2022, which means he’ll make $39,664,118 over the next three seasons if the raw numbers prove accurate.
Just two days ago, General Manager Omar Khan addressed the media and said he had held talks with Diontae representatives, saying he wanted Johnson “To be a Steeler for a long timeKhan kept his word, and his contract with the 2021 Pro Bowler was extended almost 48 hours later.
Some things emerge when looking at the deal as stated. First, the average annual value of the contract came in significantly lower than expected. With his 2019 NFL Draft teammates Terry McLaurin, AJ Brown, DK Metcalf and Deebo Samuel all signing extras in excess of $20 million a year, it has long been thought that making $20 million a year would be the absolute minimum for Johnson, with $21- 22 million number is more realistic. Johnson signed for just over $18 million a season, which comes as a discount from what Johnson was likely seeking.
Mentioned by Dave Bryan in a recent edition of Terrible podcast He expects the Johnson camp to give little if an agreement is reached, and that was exactly the case. If you break up the total amount of money Johnson is owed in the new three-year agreement by $39,664,118, the average new money comes to $18.355 million. Considering the contracts other WRs have signed this off-season, the total plus average new money proves to be a huge win for Pittsburgh.
The other thing that stands out in the contract is the extension length. Johnson and Steelers agreed to a two-year extension, which is much shorter than expected. Samuel, MacLaurin and Metcalf agreed a three-year extension with their respective franchises, while Brown secured a four-year deal from the Eagles, making Johnson’s extension more like the one Hunter Renfrew agreed to for this season, which was two years of new money for a total amount of $31.7 million. In Johnson’s view, this allows him to return to the market sooner as a free agent in 2025 before he turns 30.
However, this shorter deal also benefits the Steelers for several reasons. First, they are held as their #1 choice in the passing game for three seasons. Second, it gives them time to evaluate the other young options they have in the room, including Chase Claypool entering Year 3 as well as freshmen George Pickens and Calvin Austin III, to see if they can make the leap to become legitimate pass threats and potentially develop into Options No. 1 by themselves. Third, it puts Diontae Johnson on a proving ground as he has the opportunity to show that he can continue to produce at Pro Bowl caliber level without Ben Roethlisberger being QB’s starting line-up.
Johnson has shown improvement every season since joining the league in 2019 as a third-round pick, developing into a precise track runner who has become Ben’s goal in passing game for the past two seasons. However, while Johnson has been over-targeted by Ben with 313 goals in the last two seasons, his efficiency on goal basis hasn’t been impressive given his role in a dink-and-dunk passing game. With Roethlisberger no longer under position, Johnson may get a chance to make more use of him on the field as he has shown at times in the past two years, but he must also prove that he can still be a dominant weapon in the passing game without force feeding Ben. targets.
Overall, the contract extension is a win for Johnson who will put $19 million into his pocket in 2022, a significant salary increase from the $2,954,118 million he was set to make with his extra game check. He also avoids playing the franchise tag game, having to bet on himself and stay healthy to cash in later. However, the deal proved to be a huge win for Khan and the Pittsburgh Steelers from an average annual value as well as a length standpoint. They aren’t paying the highest price in the explosive WR market and getting a chance to see if Johnson can prove he’s worth the elite WR money for the next three seasons while still giving new starter QB a reliable weapon they can target early and often this season.
What are your thoughts on extending Diontae Johnson’s contract? Do you think Khan and the Steelers did a good job of structuring the deal? What is your thinking? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!