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How Patrick Mahomes contract affects the future contract for T.J. Watt

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With the Mahomes deal possibly changing the ways teams and players could do business, T.J. Watt may be affected when it comes time to sign a new deal.

Buffalo Bills v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

After the first two parts of the series already covering the parameters and inner workings of Patrick Mahomes new contract, why do/should BTSC fans even care?

In my opinion, handling of contracts and free agents offers has been one aspect that has held the Steelers back from being a dominant postseason team in the past decade. They were one of the most successful organizations of the past decade in the regular season. The issue is that they are viewed as woeful perennial underachievers in the playoffs during that span. And in my opinion, keeping players and landing valued free agents has hurt the team over the past decade. Since 2011, the new CBA, how many valued free agents have the Steelers brought in that made a difference over the life of their contract?

What will it take to not only keep the young superstars who are emerging but land others to find that missing piece to the puzzle? Answer: Exiting the stone ages and getting with the times that have made other teams successful not only in the regular season but in the playoffs. If you cannot beat them join them.

No one will ever accuse general manager Kevin Colbert and right-hand man Omar Khan of being trendsetters regarding contracts, instead they will no doubt freely admit they give out the most vanilla contracts of any organization. With the forward thinking contract thrown out by the Chiefs, it is a shot over the bow of every other team in the NFL. Is it a trendsetting contract or an outlier in a “follow the leader” league?

The Steelers and the Green Bay Packers are the only teams that do not guarantee future years outside of their franchise quarterbacks and rookies. Workout bonuses now appear to be a thing of the past, and incentive-laden contracts are not offered either. Colbert has moved toward roster bonuses recently, while the only fully guaranteed money in contracts have been in the form of signing bonuses. He has been putting roster bonuses in contracts which are built in points of a restructure or early in a contract in the form of guaranteed money. This is the norm for Steelers contracts, but will it work in the future?

I read comments all the time about how “nice of a guy a player is” or that “surely he will take a hometown discount” and “surely they will play ball.” T.J. Watt’s older brother J.J. broke the bank way back in 2014 when he set the market and was the first $100 million defensive player. T.J. has to see that as a measuring stick and undoubtedly be advised by his older brother. The days of hometown discount ended long ago in a league that generates $16 billion in revenues.

I enjoy playing armchair GM in articles and in the comments section — just a fun practice many share around BTSC. I have eaten many crows over the four and a half years here and will no doubt eat plenty more. So for fun, I will lay out a contract for Watt in a similar structure to Mahomes and make him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL.

The contract will be a six-year extension worth $161,500,000. The deal includes a $15 million signing bonus, $1.5 million in workout bonuses, $12 million in incentives. Total value of all money in the seven-year contract; $181,753,405. $38.5 million is fully guaranteed at signing, and $56.7 million is guaranteed for injury. How the incentives work, $1 million for being selected as an All-Pro and $1 million for playing in the AFC Championship game. It also includes a no-trade clause.

The first two-three years become fully guaranteed at signing and the fourth year guaranteed for injury. Rolling guarantees after that.

2020: Fully guaranteed at signing
2021: Fully guaranteed at signing
2022: Fully guaranteed at signing.
2023: Fully guaranteed on the third day of the new league year in 2021 and guaranteed for injury at signing.
2024: Fully guaranteed on the third day of the new league year in 2022
2025: Fully guaranteed on the third day of the new league year in 2023
2026: Fully guaranteed on the third day of the new league year in 2025
2027: Fully guaranteed on the third day of the new league year in 2026.

Watt’s hypothetical contract breakdown

Year Age Base salary Signing bonus Roster bonus Workout bonus Incentives Cap hit
Year Age Base salary Signing bonus Roster bonus Workout bonus Incentives Cap hit
2020 25 $1,727,565 $4,218,420 $0 $0 $0 $5,945,985
2021 26 $10,089,000 $4,218,420 $0 $0 $0 $14,307,420
2022 27 $5,000,000 $3,000,000 $10,000,000 $250,000 $2,000,000 $20,250,000
2023 28 $5,000,000 $3,000,000 $10,000,000 $250,000 $2,000,000 $20,250,000
2024 29 $5,000,000 $3,000,000 $20,000,000 $250,000 $2,000,000 $30,250,000
2025 30 $20,000,000 $0 $8,000,000 $250,000 $2,000,000 $30,250,000
2026 31 $20,000,000 $0 $8,000,000 $250,000 $2,000,000 $30,250,000
2027 32 $20,000,000 $0 $8,000,000 $250,000 $2,000,000 $30,250,000
Totals $86,816,565 $17,436,840 $64,000,000 $1,500,000 $12,000,000 $181,753,405
F. S. Flip Fisher

Just like Mahomes deal, there is a built in restructure during the 2024 season with a relatively cheap team opt out at the same time.

With TV contacts set to be reworked in 2022, NFL contracts are set to explode and the above scenario might lowball for two years in order to deal with a possible financial downturn due to the pandemic. That being said, Mahomes contract might be the new blueprint for NFL general managers to follow.

Do you believe Mahomes contract is just another fad or the direction teams in the NFL will take? If Mahomes was on the Steelers team, would you be opposed to his contract? Would you be opposed to extending Watt this year (I know we would have to figure out cap space this year and next) and the structure of the new contract? Please share your comments in the section below.

****UPDATE: The above contract still beats Myles Garrett’s new contract per year.

A big shout out to Randy Arsenault who sat and ran the initial contract numbers that helped in writing this series of articles.