Justin Jefferson's lucrative contract puts Steelers star T.J. Watt to shame

Justin Jefferson just reset the WR market, and T.J. Watt could do the same to the edge defender market in 2025.
Pittsburgh Steelers v Minnesota Vikings
Pittsburgh Steelers v Minnesota Vikings / Stephen Maturen/GettyImages

There was a time when T.J. Watt was the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL. That didn't last long. The Pittsburgh Steelers star and former Defensive Player of the Year has been leapfrogged in yearly contract value by numerous players since signing his extension just before the 2021 season. Now a player has emerged who blows Watt's contract numbers out of the water.

Justin Jefferson is the latest NFL wide receiver to break the bank. We knew this deal was coming, and the market reset is every bit as significant as we imagined. The prolific receiver recently signed a four-year, $140 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports.

Jefferson's contract makes him the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history. The lucrative deal includes $110 million in guaranteed money. This is the most money ever handed out to a non-quarterback.

The new money average on Jefferson's deal comes out to a whopping $35 million per season. In comparison, Watt earned just over $28 million per year in new money average on the four-year, $112 million contract he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021, according to Over the Cap. Watt's guaranteed money ($80 million) was also significantly less than what Jefferson earned.

As the salary cap continues to increase, we are going to see more record-setting contract extensions. But it seems like the NFL has to reach a breaking point at the wide receiver position.

Players like A.J. Brown and Amon-Ra St. Brown are being paid upwards of $30 million per season and earning more money than former defensive players of the year, T.J. Watt and Myles Garrett. Watt is even being paid less per season than Dolphins WR2 Jaylen Waddle -- who is coming off a year in which he earned 1,014 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns.

Steelers will soon break the bank on T.J. Watt

T.J. Watt could get the last laugh. Since earning his previous extension in 2021, Watt has earned DPOY honors and finished second place in Defensive Player of the Year voting following the 2023 season. He has also led the NFL in sacks twice over the past three seasons -- including tying Michael Strahan for the NFL's all-time single-season sack record (22.5).

Watt has two years remaining on his contract, which means the Steelers are very likely to give him an extension during the 2025 offseason. Regardless of how things go this season, Watt will have a chance to reclaim the spot from Vikings WR Justin Jefferson as the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL.

As of now, Nick Bosa is the league's highest-paid edge defender at $34 million per season. Meanwhile, Cowboys pass rusher Micah Parsons is in line to reset the market and Myles Garrett will want more guaranteed money soon.

Right now, NFL wide receivers appear to be grossly overpaid, but we could see the winds shift in favor of edge defenders like T.J. Watt very soon. Brace yourself, Steelers fans. Watt's contract extension is going to be unlike anything Pittsburgh has ever handed out to a non-quarterback.