Omar Khan proves Steelers had a masterplan in Diontae Johnson trade

A reworked contract for Donte Jackson suddenly makes the Diontae Johnson trade more palatable.

Green Bay Packers v Carolina Panthers
Green Bay Packers v Carolina Panthers / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Steelers' decision to trade Diontae Johnson didn't come out of left field. Since the 2023 season ended, we knew there was a chance that Johnson was going to be dealt during the 2024 offseason, and a report surfaced that the Steelers were open to listening to offers.

The trade didn't surprise us, but the compensation did (or should I say, the lack thereof).

In exchange for a quality, productive, starting receiver who routinely ranks among the best in the NFL in target separation, per Next Gen Stats), the Steelers got an undersized, injury-prone cornerback with their late-round pick-swap trade.

Though the Steelers clearly wanted to unload Johnson (who wasn't fitting with the program), the compensation seemed underwhelming. It was even worse when you consider Donte Jackson's contract.

The newest Steelers cornerback was set to have a lofty cap number of $10.522 million in the final year of his contract. This meant that Pittsburgh wasn't on track to save a penny by swapping Johnson for Jackson. Then Omar Khan did what he does best.

On March 18th, Over the Cap confirmed that the Pittsburgh Steelers have agreed to a new one-year contract that will pay Donte Jackson $4.75 million fully guaranteed in 2024.

Thanks to this agreement, the Steelers were able to lower Jackson's cap number from $10.522 million all the way down to just $6 million for the 2024 season. Jackson will now have a base salary of just $1.25 million.

Steelers work their salary cap magic on Donte Jackson's contract

Because Khan reworked Jackson's contract, the veteran cornerback acquired in the Diontae Johnson trade suddenly has a very reasonable one-year deal. The Steelers will now save over $4.5 million in cap space.

This might not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but that's cap space that goes back into Pittsburgh's pocket as potential spending money in 2024. This can be used to sign another quality free agent.

I have to admit, the decision to trade Diontae Johnson for Donte Jackson was baffling at first. Now it's all starting to make sense. As part of the deal, the Steelers were able to swap their seventh-round pick for Carilina's sixth-round pick (which formerly belonged to the Cardinals and will be the second selection in the sixth round).

Pittsburgh will pay Jackson roughly half of what Johnson will make for the Panthers in 2024. Jackson has been a solid cornerback in the past when healthy, and his 4.32 speed should be a welcome addition to a secondary that was one of the slowest in the NFL a season ago.

Sure, we all would have loved to see the Steelers get a higher draft choice in exchange for a quality player like Diontae Johnson, but teams knew that Pittsburgh needed to ditch him. Omar Khan ultimately moved up on Day 3 of the draft and got a starting-level cornerback at an affordable price.

Even this trade that looked bad for the Steelers was salvaged in the end thanks to the front office reworking Donte Jackson's contract. We thought Khan had something up his sleeve with this deal, and this was it.