Pittsburgh Steelers make T.J. Watt highest-paid defensive player in NFL history

The long contract stalemate between the Pittsburgh Steelers and star edge rusher T.J. Watt has finally come to an end.

According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, Pittsburgh has signed the All-Pro defender to a four-year extension worth more than $112 million with $80 million fully guaranteed at signing.

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As noted in the report, Watt will be earning roughly $28 million annually on his new deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. That makes him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, surpassing the $27 million Joey Bosa is earning on his current contract with the Los Angeles Chargers.

Watt, 26, has more than earned this pay day. The Wisconsin product has recorded 111 quarterback hits, 49.5 sacks and 17 forced fumbles since entering the league as a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers back in 2017. Last season alone, he led the NFL in tackles for loss (23) and sacks (15).

T.J. Watt contract extension with the Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers' T.J. Watt contract extension
Oct 1, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker TJ Watt (90) defends a pass against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

This continues a trend of NFL teams offering up huge contract extensions to star edge rushers. It’s going to continue being a theme around the league. Just look at some of the star pass rushers and what they are earning on an annual basis.

  • T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers: $28 million
  • Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers: $27 million
  • Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns: $25 million
  • Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears: $23.5 million
  • Demarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys: $21 million
  • Frank Clark, Kansas City Chiefs: $20.8 million

What used to be quarterback money around the NFL is now money reserved for those attempting to get to the quarterback. Such is the nature of the beast in the modern NFL. The Pittsburgh Steelers doling out this amount of cash to T.J. Watt is the most-recent example of that.

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