Jaylen Waddle contract proves why Steelers must keep drafting wide receivers

Wide receivers are getting more expensive by the minute; the Steelers should stick to their 'draft and replace' strategy at the position.
Pittsburgh Steelers v Miami Dolphins
Pittsburgh Steelers v Miami Dolphins / Eric Espada/GettyImages

The latest NFL wide receiver just broke the bank. On May 30th, ESPN Insider Adam Schefter reported that Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle received a three-year, $84.75 million contract extension -- a deal that includes $76 million in guarantees.

Waddle isn't the only wide receiver to ink a lucrative contract extension in 2024. Philadelphia Eagles WR A.J. Brown received a three-year, $96 million contract extension with an average annual salary of $32 million. Meanwhile, Amon-Ra St. Brown earned $30 million per year on his new deal. Even Nico Collins is raking in $24.25 million per year after just one season of productivity in 2023.

The Pittsburgh Steelers would be wise not to follow suit.

At multiple points during the offseason, it looked as if Steelers GM Omar Khan would execute a trade for a high-profile wide receiver. In addition to giving up elite draft capital, the Steelers would also have been forced to turn around and dish out a big percentage of their team's cap space for their new weapon.

Brandon Aiyuk was the trade prospect who drew the most buzz in connection with the Steelers during the 2024 offseason. Considering what Waddle and St. Brown went for, it's safe to assume that Aiyuk's new money average would have been pushing or even exceeding $30 million per season.

The wide receiver market is exploding, and it feels like teams don't have an option but to fork up money for quality receivers. So what's the solution?

Steelers must continue to draft and replace wide receivers

One the Pittsburgh Steelers have been known for over the past two decades is their innate ability to draft and replace wide receivers. Somehow, this team went straight from Hines Ward to Antonio Brown. Now George Pickens looks the part of a WR1.

While teams like the Eagles and Dolphins are dishing out two massive contracts each at the wide receiver position and investing roughly $60 million per year at the position, the Steelers would be wise to pay just one wide receiver while drafting and replacing their WR2 and WR3 every few years -- something they have been successful at doing in the past.

Not every draft pick is going to hit. We are all old enough to remember the days of Sammie Coates and James Washington, and many of you can't forget Limas Sweed. However, there are significant benefits to going this route.

The biggest is that Pittsburgh could save a ton of money at the position. This money can be used in the future to keep their offensive line intact for the long haul or go to a franchise quarterback (once we figure out who that will be).

The Steelers haven't had a problem finding WR2 types from Emmanuel Sanders to Martavis Bryant to Diontae Johnson. Who knows? Roman Wilson could be next in line.

The league has to reach a breaking point somewhere down the line when it comes to paying the wide receiver position. For a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers who have had so much success drafting and replacing wide receivers over the years, this is a strategy they should continue to implement Omar Khan.