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What Myles Garrett’s new contract might mean for T.J. Watt and the Steelers

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Myles Garrett just became the highest-paid defender in the NFL, and T.J. Watt could get even more.

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Myles Garrett is getting paid.

Ian Rapoport tweeted out the news around noon on Tuesday, adding that the Browns’ defensive end is close to getting a 5 year, $125 million deal. The average of $25 million a year would make Garrett the highest-paid defender in the NFL. Garrett had 10 sacks in 2019, despite missing six games due to a suspension after a late-game brawl against the Steelers in November.

The 2017 NFL Draft’s number 1 pick has quickly become one of the NFL’s best pass-rushers, and the Browns were obviously hoping to lock him up before he came to the end of his rookie deal.

Garrett might not even be the best pass-rusher in his draft class, however, as the Steelers selected Wisconsin outside linebacker T.J. Watt 29 picks later in that same draft. Watt was a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in 2019, putting up 14.5 sacks, 8 forced fumbles, and ascending into one of the top defenders in the league.

Watt and Garrett were drafted in the same year, and as a result, Watt is nearing the time for a contract extension as well. Watt is still under his rookie his deal (he will make approximately $1.7 million in base salary this year) and his fifth-year option has been exercised for 2021. It looks as if the Steelers will look to extend him sometime next year, as the team typically avoids negotiating in-season, and there has been no news regarding extension talks between the two sides this offseason.

A June article here on BTSC dove deep into how much Watt was worth and concluded that he is easily one of the top pass-rushers in the league. Watt will be in the Myles Garrett ballpark when it comes to his upcoming extension, and he definitely has an argument to be paid even more than the Browns’ star.

Watt had a better year than Garrett in 2019 (even though Garrett’s year was cut six games short), and has more career tackles, sacks, forced fumbles, and interceptions despite having played the same amount of seasons.

Even if Watt signs for a lot less than Garrett, it will still be the biggest defensive contract in Steelers’ history. At the very least he’ll be asking for around $20 million on average per year, which would put him in the top-10 defensive salaries, and on par with names such as Aaron Donald, DeMarcus Lawrence, Chris Jones, and Von Miller.

If Watt takes advantage of his leverage, especially since the Steelers will probably do whatever it takes to keep him around, he could easily get upwards of $23 million a year, placing him in Khalil Mack and Myles Garrett territory.

If Watt plays his cards right the Steelers might be paying him the highest defensive salary in the NFL.

A massive upcoming extension for Watt means that the Steelers won't be able to afford both him and Bud Dupree on market-value deals in the future. Pittsburgh will have to pick one to keep after this season, and there’s little doubt that they’ll stick with Watt. Upcoming contract talks with Cameron Heyward, Juju Smith-Schuster, and other key Steelers will also have to be configured around the Watt contract, as he’s obviously their top priority.

Ben Roethlisberger’s $41 million cap hit in 2021 will surely have an effect as well.

With a lot of uncertainty surrounding the immediate future of the NFL, it’s near impossible to predict anything salary-wise. Coronavirus will obviously affect the NFL’s revenue, which will in turn lower the salary cap, impacting contract extensions and possibly forcing drastic changes in the NFL landscape. Watt likely still has a full season to play between now and his next contract as well, which could raise or lower his value as a player.

That being said, it looks as if Watt will stay on the track he’s on, if not improve even more. If so, all he will have to do during his contract negotiations is point at Garrett, who Watt has outperformed in most areas since the two entered the league, and ask for the same amount of money, if not more, in his new deal.

Garrett’s new contract showed how expensive the market is for pass-rushers in the modern NFL, and T.J. Watt is next in line for a huge pay-day. The Steelers’ will be forced to shell out more millions than they ever have for a defender in their history, but there’s little doubt it will be worth every penny.