Steelers might not be willing to offer Diontae Johnson $20 million per year
Diontae Johnson is going to rake in the money soon, but the Pittsburgh Steelers might not be the team that offers the deal he’s looking for.
It’s crazy how fast the market can inflate at a certain position in the NFL. Contracts at the wide receiver position over the past few years seemed reasonable, but they were thrown through a loop when players like Davante Adams, A.J. Brown, and Christian Kirk received new deals this offseason.
Now Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson could be next in line. The most recent (and likely most relevant) wide receiver contract was given to Terry McLaurin. Like Johnson, McLaurin was a former third-round pick from the 2019 NFL Draft who has put up very similar numbers through three years.
McLaurin recently raked in a 3-year, $71 million extensions — paying him $23.6 million in new annual earnings. This figure is no doubt going to be used as a baseline arguing point for Johnson’s agent when negotiating with the Steelers for a new deal.
While there’s no doubt that Johnson is going to get paid (likely without settling for a penny less than the market deems he is worth), it’s possible that his next contract doesn’t come in Pittsburgh.
Recently, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic had a mailbag in which he answered a question pertaining to Diontae Johnson’s contract situation. Here’s how he responded:
"“[The Steelers] aren’t offering him anything near [Terry] McLaurin or anybody else that got more than $20 million per year. They will offer him something, and it won’t be what he thinks he can get on the market, and he will get paid next year somewhere else.”"
Kaboly didn’t elaborate on whether he heard from a source or if he’s just going by a gut feeling, but it’s clear that he doesn’t believe Pittsburgh is going to fork up this type of money for a receiver like Diontae Johnson.
Obviously, there are arguments to be made for both sides of this, but history might suggest that Kaboly is right.
Steelers may not offer big money to Johnson
I agree with Kaboly’s thought process here. I think the Steelers do submit an offer to Johnson’s agent, but I also agree that it will be one that comes in much lower than the Pro Bowl wide receiver is willing to take.
Because of his impressive raw statistical production since entering the league, Johnson is going to make a case to be paid similarly to players who recently received deals like Terry McLaurin and A.J. Brown. However, history suggests the Steelers won’t go for this.
Over the past two decades, only two receivers have made it to a second contract in Pittsburgh: Hines Ward and Antonio Brown. Though the Steelers will have some money to work with in the near future, their current cap situation following a busy 2022 offseason would likely require the Steelers to restructure a contract before getting something done.
I could also argue that, while Johnson is a good player, he’s not in the same class as former Steelers legends like Ward and Brown. Mike Tomlin and Pittsburgh front office might view him closer to the tier of players like Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, and Santonio Holmes that didn’t receive extensions with the Steelers.
It really doesn’t seem like the Steelers way to allocate this much money to a wide receiver who isn’t considered an elite player. We know Diontae Johnson is going to break the bank, but his new contract might not come with Pittsburgh.