Yesterday saw another high-profile wideout from the 2019 class sign a massive extension, turning attention even further to Steelers receiver Diontae Johnson. He could be the next in line to secure a new contract, and knowing that, he has mostly been a spectator so far at training camp.
Mark Kaboly of The Athletic notes that the former third-rounder has been essentially ‘holding-in’ since his arrival at camp (subscription required). The reason for doing so, of course, is the fact that he has one year remaining on his rookie contract and is aiming for a significant raise on a multi-year pact.
The WR market has erupted this offseason, with $20MM-per-season deals becoming the new benchmark at the position, especially for players in their prime. At 25, Johnson has been expected to land a contract similar to those signed by D.J. Moore (three years, $61.884MM) and Mike Williams (three years, $60MM) in recent months, which would rank him below 2019 classmates A.J. Brown, DK Metcalf and Terry McLaurin.
However, it was reported earlier this month that the Steelers – whose top remaining priority is establishing Johnson’s financial future, having already done so with safety Minkah Fitzpatrick – are not expected to offer the 25-year-old an extension averaging $20MM-per-annum. That has left both parties in their current situation, and fuelled speculation that the 2022 campaign will be Johnson’s last in Pittsburgh.
Kaboly adds that Johnson “does want to remain a Steeler,” but also that the player is “unsure” at this point if contract talks are ongoing. The Steelers rank towards the top of the league in terms cap space both this year and, more importantly, next. Johnson is in line to once again operate as Pittsburgh’s top pass-catcher, though the franchise has a history of letting wideouts leave in free agency when signing their second contracts, and added George Pickens and Calvin Austin III in this year’s draft.
Another season of increased production would give Johnson consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns and boost his free agent value. Whether or not he will be on the field in the build-up to the season, and where he will be playing in 2023, though, remain very much in question at this point.