We’re just days away from the start of the NFL season, and one of the best defensive players in the league still isn’t practicing. T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers is seeking a big new contract from the team, but specific terms are reportedly holding things up.
Watt is set to play on the fifth-year option, which will pay him just over $10 million this season. He’ll hit unrestricted free agency in 2022, if the two sides don’t figure something out beforehand.
According to ProFootballTalk, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a pair of “informal contract rules” that are believed to be hangups in the Watt negotiations. 1.) The team doesn’t negotiate once the season begins, and 2.) the Steelers “don’t fully guarantee payments beyond the first year of a veteran deal.”
Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Media says that the second of those rules is “threatening to sink” negotiations with Watt. With the season beginning on Sunday, they’re running out of time.
The #Steelers’ commitment to one main tradition -refusing to offer full guarantees beyond Year One- is threatening to sink these TJ Watt negotiations. Source had me optimistic last week that things were close. After convo w folks close to contract talks just now, I’m not as much.
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) September 7, 2021
Watt continues to get better, and is huge for the Steelers’ pass rush. He’s coming off of a career-high 15 sacks in as many games, and took a huge leap forward from 14 to 23 tackles for loss.
Through four NFL seasons, he has an impressive 49.5 sacks. He’s clearly one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL at this point. It would be hard for the Steelers to let him walk given how important he is to that defense.
“It’s my understanding, I remain optimistic something will get done from a deal perspective,” head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters earlier today. “I’m expecting him to work tomorrow. I’m proceeding with the assumption he’s going to work tomorrow.”
Hopefully, for the Steelers’ sake, he’s right. Pittsburgh and Buffalo kickoff at 1 p.m. on Sunday to begin the season.