It was pretty earth-shattering when the Bears made their trade for Khalil Mack back in 2018. But when they also made him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player, it was breath-taking. Without going too far down that rabbit hole, that moment was so memorable – in part – because Chicago’s football team wasn’t typically associated with handing out those types of deals.
Since then, a handful of players have lapped Mack. And the latest is someone the Bears’ offense must prepare to slow down later this season:
Sources: The #Steelers and star pass-rusher TJ Watt have a mega-deal. He’s going to sign a 4-year extension worth more than $112M — $28.003M average per year — with $80M fully guaranteed at signing. The highest paid defensive player in football. 💰 💰 💰
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 9, 2021
NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reports the Steelers and T.J. Watt have come to an agreement on a contract extension. The three-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro is sticking around Pittsburgh as the recipient on a four-year deal worth more than $112 million. Watt’s new contract with the Steelers come with $80 million in full guarantees, has an average of $28.003 million per year, and makes him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player. There is certainly a nice direct deposit notification coming Watt’s way in the near future.
It’s always worth noting when players become the highest-paid on either side of the ball. And it is often fun to look back at other deals within the framework of what we know now. So, in this instance, I can’t help but look back at Mack’s deal, see how Myles Garrett ($25M AAV), Joey Bosa ($27M AAV), and now Watt ($28.003M AAV) have leap-frogged the Bears’ pass-rusher. These big-money contracts aren’t getting smaller, folks.
As we discussed yesterday, the Bears have a handful of defensive players worthy of receiving pay raises and extensions of their own. But none figure to go north of Watt’s level. So you can relax before getting too worked up about how a potential deal like that could fit within Chicago’s cap restraints. More important for the Bears is that Watt and the Steelers are on the schedule for Week 9. But well before then, Chicago’s offensive coaches have to figure out how to deal with the league’s fourth-highest-paid defender — Rams star Aaron Donald.