Tim Benz: Steelers, Diontae Johnson had to give up a lot to settle on a contract

The Steelers’ new contract with extensive receiver Diontae Johnson sums up that outdated adage from enterprise negotiations.

A good deal for either side in all probability implies that neither aspect is totally pleased with the contract that has been signed.

I do not assume that at all times has to be true. Look at Sidney Crosby’s 12-year, $104 million deal inked with the Penguins prior to the 2012-13 season. Both sides appeared pleased with it then. There is not any motive to assume any much less of it now.

In the case of Johnson’s contract with the Steelers, although, that outdated axiom is 100% true. But earlier than we get into why it was in all probability so exhausting for either side to suck it up and get a deal finished to finish Johnson’s “hold-in,” let’s needless to say when all of the mud settles, the Steelers know they are going to have a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver beneath contract by the following three seasons and Johnson simply obtained a life-changing $27 million. Guaranteed.

So neither aspect ought to actually really feel prefer it misplaced on this negotiation both.

If Johnson continues to play on the degree he has performed his first three seasons, the Steelers may have locked up a superb receiver by no less than the primary three years of Kenny Pickett’s time in Pittsburgh, and Johnson is about to be paid at a price 12 occasions the sum of money he’ll be making in 2022 — in a metropolis the place he claimed he needed to keep.

From these angles, all of it is sensible. Yet I’m nonetheless a bit stunned the Steelers and Johnson discovered an agreeable center floor.

“You see the numbers,” Johnson stated. “I wasn’t attempting to have a look at all people’s pockets. They deserve it. I can not management what they received. I’m simply frightened about what I’ve received going on.”

From Johnson’s perspective, the extension for the 2023 and 2024 seasons pays him a reported $36.71 million over two years. Via Spotrac.com, that $18.355 million common annual worth slots him seventeenth amongst NFL extensive receivers. The $27 million assured at signing is twenty second.

And in case you requested me the place Johnson ranks as an NFL extensive receiver primarily based on his on-field efficiency and skillset, someplace between 17 and 22 looks as if a excellent match.

So it seems to be a truthful market-value contract. That’s a win for the Steelers. It’s not essentially a win for Johnson. Because if the extensive receiver market has taught us something over the previous two years, cost is not essentially about being a truthful reflection of your efficiency.

Forget being paid what you’re price. As an NFL extensive receiver, it is extra about getting overpaid as doable when it is your flip. Look at Christian Kirk or Kenny Golladay getting $18 million a 12 months or Corey Davis, Curtis Samuel and Robbie Anderson all getting between $20-$27 million at signing.

Johnson gave up his likelihood to get into the $25-$30 million per 12 months vary on the open market. If he put collectively a standout 2022, he would’ve gotten there. Somebody would’ve given him that cash. That’s what Johnson is sacrificing by signing the deal that he did.

But now he is additionally avoiding the chance of getting to hit the market if his stats are deflated by damage, inefficiency from the Steelers’ revamped quarterback place or targets getting distributed elsewhere (particularly intriguing rookie George Pickens) in an evolving offense.

Not to point out, he might have by no means gotten to the open market. The Steelers might have franchise tagged him. That pays the common of the highest 5 gamers within the league on the place in query for one 12 months. Based on AAV at this second for NFL extensive receivers, that determine is $27.39 million. Or simply $390,000 greater than Johnson’s assure.

Plus, the extra $9.71 million within the stability of the contract is all however assured. What are the percentages of the Steelers slicing Johnson earlier than 2024 begins? He’ll nonetheless solely be 28 because the final 12 months of that extension triggers.

What the Steelers are uncomfortably sacrificing is cap house and money on a place they do not normally pay large cash. They’ve not often felt the necessity to tie themselves to extensive receivers in search of an costly second contract. Only Hines Ward and Antonio Brown have been awarded these kinds of offers within the Heinz Field/Acrisure Stadium period. Although they tried to give large cash to Mike Wallace. He simply by no means discovered the center floor with the Steelers that Johnson did.

Spotrac initiatives Johnson’s $18.335 million cap determine because the third-highest hit on the 2023 group behind solely TJ Watt and Cameron Heyward and barely forward of Minkah Fitzpatrick. That wage would account for roughly 8% of what the franchise at the moment has dedicated to the wage cap subsequent 12 months.

Historically, the Steelers have by no means seen the worth in giving a receiver that a lot cash after their first deal expires as a result of — for as essential as having a deep secure of excellent receivers is — there appears to be a fixed provide of them by the draft, free businesses and trades.

But, apparently, in his first large transfer because the Steelers new normal supervisor, Omar Khan noticed Johnson as being worthy of such an funding.

One factor we’ve got to take into account concerning the cap house Johnson will eat is what the Steelers had been going to do with it subsequent offseason anyway. Sign a big-name free agent? That’s not what they do. Are they gonna signal a $15 million offensive deal with or cornerback on the open market? I doubt it. Steelers cap house is normally reserved for preserving their very own.

In this case, it is Diontae Johnson.

Whether or not Johnson or Khan is totally comfy with how the deal wound up on paper.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review workers author. You can contact Tim at tbenz@triblive.com or by way of Twitter. All tweets might be reposted. All emails are topic to publication except specified in any other case.

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