There is one catch for Steelers contract extension with Diontae Johnson

Diontae Johnson #18 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Diontae Johnson #18 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

Diontae Johnson has agreed to terms on a team-friendly new contract extension with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but there is one catch.

Steelers fans received some spectacular news this week. Since training camp started, Diontae Johnson has been in the midst of a hold-in as he awaited a new contract extension from the team. That day has finally come.

Signing Johnson to a lucrative new extension wasn’t a decision that all fans could initially get behind. However, after seeing what he signed for, it’s hard not to be pleased.

On Thursday afternoon, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Johnson had inked a new two-year, $39.5 million extension with the Pittsburgh Steelers. His new annual money comes in at just over $18.3 million per season — which is much lower than most experts predicted.

Despite the ever-changing wide receiver market that saw multiple players break the bank this offseason, Johnson’s annual earnings make him just the 17th-highest-paid wide receiver in the league.

Over the past several weeks, fellow 2019 draftmates like Terry McLaurin, DK, Metcalf, and Deebo Samuel each signed for upwards of $23.2 million per season. Johnson’s statistical production has been on par with all of them.

Diontae Johnson’s contract extension certainly looks good on paper, but there is one catch that Steelers fans should be aware of.

Steelers may not have Johnson long-term

Signing for just over $18.3 million per season was a very peculiar decision — especially considering that this number is projected to come in below the wide receiver franchise tag value next season. However, Johnson and his agent have a plan.

Perhaps the main reason the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to get a deal done with Johnson that looked so team-friendly is that the young wide receiver will still be able to hit the free agent market again at the age of 29.

We see how fast the free agent market is shifting in the NFL, and with the new TV deals coming up, there’s expected to be a significant increase in salary cap space. While $18 million per season isn’t chump change, Johnson’s plan might be to hit the market a year or two sooner than the other receivers who signed during the 2022 offseason.

By doing so, Johnson could potentially land more guaranteed money in another very significant payday. Obviously, this means that Diontae is betting on himself. In order for this plan to work out the way he wants it to, he is still going to have to perform very well over the next few years.

If he does, he could either force the Steelers to fork up elite money for him or possibly test a free agent market that could be much more inflated than the one we saw this past offseason.

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Even if this is Johnson’s intention, I think the two-year extension is a deal that could very well work out for both parties. The Steelers retained their top wide receiver at a bit of a discount, while Johnson can get paid again sooner than expected. Johnson isn’t guaranteed to be with the team for his whole career, but at least we can take comfort in knowing that he can help Pittsburgh through at least the 2024 season.