Deebo extension is another blow to Steelers hopes with Diontae Johnson

Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers might regret not rushing to get an extension done with Diontae Johnson. Here’s why Deebo Samuel’s new deal makes matters worse.

If you were part of the crowd hoping that the Pittsburgh Steelers would come to an agreement with Diontae Johnson on a new contract extension, you might not want to hold your breath. With each passing week, the likelihood of GM Omar Kahn and Johnson’s agent agreeing to terms seems fleeting.

Most of the best receivers from the 2019 draft class have already signed lucrative new contract extensions. In A.J. Brown’s case, the former Pro Bowl receiver was traded to the Eagles before becoming one of the richest non-quarterbacks in the NFL.

Deebo Samuel is the latest receiver to break the bank. The former second-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers just inked a three-year, $71.55 million extension with his team, via Adam Schefter. This makes him the 8th-highest-paid receiver in the league, according to Over the Cap.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport reports that Deebo’s extension has a maximum value of $73.5 million — essentially meaning he could earn as $24.5 million if he hits his incentives.

So far, five of the seven top receivers from the 2019 NFL Draft have inked new deals with a year remaining on their rookie contracts. Here’s the new annual money they are earning:

Deebo Samuel’s contract extension is the latest to put a dampener on the Steelers chances of getting a long-term deal worked out with Diontae Johnson. Fans have the right to ask at this point if a deal is going to get done at all.

Steelers don’t seem likely to extend Diontae

Omar Khan might be new to the general manager game, but he’s certainly not new to the business. We are talking about the guy who was primarily responsible for handling Pittsburgh’s contracts and front office finances over the past two decades.

Believe me when I say that Khan knows how the market works. He’s well aware that the wide receiver market has been inflated during the 2022 offseason, and he knows that each new receiver who signs is going to hurt the team’s chances of retaining Johnson long-term.

If Khan was dead set on keeping Diontae around long-term, he wouldn’t have messed around this long. This is the same GM who wasted no time at all to make Minkah Fitzpatrick the highest-paid safety in the NFL.

Though we might not know exactly what it is, Khan has a plan. Perhaps he doesn’t believe that Diontae Johnson is a special enough football player to dish out the type of money he knows his agent will demand. Maybe the Steelers think they can replicate Johnson’s production with the other young receivers on the roster.

Either way, the most likely scenario at this point seems to be allowing Johnson to play out the final year of his contract. If he takes a step up from the receiver we saw in 2021 and truly looks like a WR1, the Steelers could throw money at him or slap the franchise tag on him if negotiations fall through. If Johnson reverts back to his old ways as the inconsistent WR we saw in 2020 and late last year, they could let him hit the market and try to earn a compensatory pick for his departure.

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I know T.J. Watt’s contract situation dragged on until almost the start of the season in 2021, but this situation is very different. Knowing what they are going to have to pay, the Steelers are no doubt on the fence about whether or not to extend Diontae Johnson. The fact that it’s taking so long is a good sign that it might not get done.