Details of Diontae Johnson contract should have Steelers fans ecstatic

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18). Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18). Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports /

Diontae Johnson recently signed a two-year extension with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his contract structure looks as good as we could ask for.

A good situation just keeps getting better for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Last week, we had no idea if or when Diontae Johnson would begin practicing with his teammates or whether or not he would appear in a preseason game. Now Pittsburgh’s top receiver is back on a new deal, and his contract details should have Steelers fans ecstatic.

Since the start of free agency, other productive wide receivers from the 2019 draft class have broken the bank with their new extensions. A.J. Brown, DK Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, and Terry McLaurin are now each raking in between $23-25 million per season.

Fortunately, Omar Khan was able to work his magic and retain Johnson on a two-year, $39.5 million extension. While some would go as far as to argue that the Steelers overpaid, this certainly isn’t the case when you consider the going rate of a quality receiver these days.

Johnson’s new annual money slots in just above Christian Kirk and Kenny Golladay… and there’s no doubt in my mind that Diontae is a better player than either of these two guys. Pittsburgh’s deal with Johnson gets even more encouraging when you break down his contract details. Here are his cap numbers for each of the next three seasons, according to Over the Cap:

In the past, Pittsburgh has kept the first-year cap hit as low as possible, but this year, they elected to absorb some of that in 2022. I love this move. By doing so, Johnson will be an absolute bargain in 2023 — counting just $13.8 million against the salary cap. This is just 28th in the NFL compared to annual yearly earnings at the wide receiver position, and well below the projected franchise tag number in 2023.

In 2024, Johnson’s cap number goes back up to $18.5 million, but this is still reasonable considering the cost of good receivers. Perhaps by this time, in the prime of his NFL career, Johnson could be playing like a true WR1 and will be worth every penny.

If he’s not, there is good news. Let’s say that Johnson reverts back to the drop-happy, inconsistent player we saw in 2020. The Steelers will be able to get out of his contract following the 2023 season and save $12.6 million in cap space.

So let’s look at it this way: the Steelers now have Diontae Johnson under contract for three more years, his cap number is very low over the next two years, is reasonable in year three, and the team can get out of his deal with a relatively minor dead cap hit if they feel the need to do so in 2023.

Johnson wasn’t the most efficient receiver in the NFL last season, but he still was able to reel in 107 of 169 targets for 1,161 yards and 8 touchdowns. He also didn’t record a single drop in his first 10 games, according to Pro Football Reference.

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My only complaint is that we couldn’t lock up Johnson for longer. However, the wide receiver outlook on the team currently looks pretty promising. Omar Khan doesn’t get enough credit for how good he is when it comes to this part of the business. Steelers fans should be ecstatic about these contract details.