TJ Watt to become league's highest paid defensive player with $112 million deal
The Pittsburgh Steelers have just made linebacker T.J. Watt the richest defensive player in the NFL with a record $112 million deal.
The team signed the linebacker to the $112 million four-year extension with $80 million fully guaranteed, the highest guarantee ever for a defender. The contract gives Watt an average annual value of a little over $28 million, and is expected to run though the 2025 season.
The outside linebacker overruled his agents, who thought they could squeeze an even bigger figure from the team, and declared to Steelers president Art Rooney II that they had a deal.
Watt's outstanding performance
Watt has delivered for the Steelers since the team drafted him 30th overall in 2017.
The star pass-rusher’s numbers are impressive, leading the NFL with 15 sacks and 23 tackles for loss last season on his way to clinching his second consecutive First-Team All-Pro.
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The mega-deal came a day after Watt participated in full team drills for the first time this preseason. He had reported for each day of training camp and avoided mandatory daily $50,000 fines for non-attendance. But he did not participate fully in practice, instead training individually on the sidelines as his deal was being hammered out.
Watt holds out for a better deal
Watt was on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract, which would have been worth $10 million. By not fully participating in practice, he was compelling his squad to seal a contract extension with him before the season began.
The Steelers locked Watt down into the long-term agreement only three days before their season-opening game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Watt surpasses the record of Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa who had previously been the highest-paid defender with his five-year, $135 million contract, giving him an average $27 million annual value.
The 26-year-old is the youngest brother of Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt, and of his Steelers teammate fullback Derek Watt.