Tim Benz: The Steelers, Deontay Johnson had to give up a lot to settle the contract


The Steelers’ new contract with wide receiver Deontay Johnson sums up that old adage from business negotiations.

A fair deal for both sides probably means that neither party is entirely happy with the contract that was signed.

I don’t think this should always be true. Look at Sidney Crosby’s 12-Year $104 Million Deal Signed with the Penguins Before 2012-13 season. Both sides seemed happy about it at the time. There is no reason to think any less now.

In the case of Johnson’s contract with the Steelers, this old axiom is 100% correct. But before we get into why it will likely be so hard for both sides to suck up and strike a deal to end Johnson’s ‘suspension’, let’s keep in mind that when all the dust has settled, the Steelers know they’ll have a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver under contract. Over the next three seasons Johnson just received $27 million to change his life. content.

So neither side should feel lost in these negotiations either.

If Johnson continues to play at the level he played in his first three seasons, the Steelers will have kept a very good receiver for at least the first three years of Kenny Pickett’s time in Pittsburgh, and Johnson is on the cusp of an average payout. 12 times the amount he will earn in 2022 – in a city he claimed he wanted to stay in.

From those angles, it all makes sense. However, I’m still a bit surprised, as the Steelers and Johnson found acceptable common ground.

“You see the numbers,” Johnson said. I wasn’t trying to look into everyone’s pockets. They deserve it. I can’t control what they got. I’m just worried about what’s going on.”

In Johnson’s view, the extension for the 2023 and 2024 seasons would pay him $36.71 million over two years. Across Spotrac.com, that an average annual value of $18.355 million puts it in 17th place among broad NFL receivers. The $27 million guaranteed upon signing is $22.

And if you ask me where Johnson ranks as a broad receiver in the NFL based on his performance and skill set on the field, somewhere between 17 and 22 seems a good fit.

So it appears to be a fair market value contract. This is the Steelers win. It’s not necessarily a win for Johnson. Because if the broad receiver market has taught us anything over the past couple of years, paying doesn’t necessarily have to be a fair reflection of your performance.

Forget to pay what you deserve. As a receiver on the NFL scale, it’s about getting as overpaid as possible when it’s your turn. Look at Christian Kirk or Kenny Goladay making $18 million a year or Cory Davis, Curtis Samuel and Robbie Anderson each getting between $20 and $27 million upon signing.

Johnson gave up his chance to get into the $25-30 million per year range on the open market. If he put together a top team in 2022, he would have gotten there. Someone was going to give him that money. This is what Johnson sacrifices his signature on the deal he made.

But he now also avoids the risk of having to hit the market if his stats shrink due to injury, incompetence from the Steelers’ revamped quarterback position or target distribution elsewhere (especially intriguing starter George Pickens) in an evolving offense.

Not to mention that it may never have entered the open market. The Steelers might have a franchise tag to it. This pushes the average of the league’s top five players into the respective position for one year. Based on AAV at the moment for NFL wide receivers, that number is $27.39 million. Or just $390,000 more than Johnson’s guarantee.

Additionally, the additional $9.71 million in contract balance is fully confirmed. What are the odds that the Steelers will fire Johnson before the start of 2024? He will remain only twenty-eight in the last year of this extension.

What the Steelers uncomfortably sacrifice is cap and cash space on a position where they don’t usually pay big money. They rarely felt the need to strap themselves to wide receivers seeking an expensive second decade. These types of deals were awarded in the Heinz Field/Acrisure Stadium era only to Hines Ward and Antonio Brown. Although they tried to make big money to Mike Wallace. He never found common ground with the Steelers as Johnson did.

Spotrac predicts Johnson’s figure of $18.335 million as the third-highest score in a 2023 team behind TJ Watt and Cameron Heyward and a little over Minkah Fitzpatrick. This salary will make up approximately 8% of what the franchise is currently committed to toward next year’s salary cap.

Historically, the Steelers have never seen the value in giving receivers this much money after their first deal is over because – while a deep stability of good receivers is important – there seems to be a consistent offer to them through the draft, free agency and craft.

But, apparently, in his first big move as Steelers’ new general manager, Omar Khan saw Johnson as worthy of such an investment.

One thing we have to consider about the cover space Johnson will take up is what the Steelers would have done with him outside of next season anyway. Signing a free agent with a big name? This is not what they do. Will they sign a $15 million offensive line or corner deal in the open market? I doubt it. Steelers cover space is usually reserved for holding.

In this case, it’s Deontay Johnson.

Whether or not Johnson or Khan are completely comfortable with how the deal will end on paper.

Tim Benz is a Tribune Review writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets can be reposted. All emails are subject to posting unless otherwise stated.

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