Fresh off a breakout year in Pittsburgh, T.J. Watt enters the 2021 season as the richest defender in football.
Watt and the Steelers agreed to a four-year extension worth more than $112 million with $80 million fully guaranteed, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Thursday. It's the highest guarantee ever for a defensive player, and with an average annual value of just over $28 million, Watt is now the highest-paid defensive player in the league.
The deal doesn't come as a surprise when you look at Watt's numbers -- he led the league with 15.0 sacks and 23 tackles for loss last season en route to his second consecutive First-Team All-Pro. There was some doubt about Watt's Week 1 status, though, as he didn't fully participate in training camp while his deal was being negotiated. He never missed a day of practice, but he worked individually on the sidelines during team activities.
Watt has only exceeded expectations since entering the league as the No. 30 overall pick in 2017, making three straight Pro Bowls and accumulating 49.5 sacks.
Perhaps most notably, he's completely shaken the label of "J.J. Watt's little brother." Both of the Watts have separately made a name for themselves in the NFL, and T.J.'s new contract only cements that. The older Watt still has three Defensive Player of the Year awards compared to zero for the younger, but the Steelers defender might be the best pass rusher in the NFL right now.
Now that Watt is locked into a long-term deal, he'll be ready to play in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.