WR Diontae Johnson Interested In Panthers Extension

The Steelers and Panthers agreed to swap contract-year players. The higher-profile piece included in the March trade went to Carolina, which acquired Diontae Johnson. Donte Jackson is now in Pittsburgh, joining Johnson as a walk-year player on a new team.

Carolina has now paired Johnson’s Pittsburgh-constructed contract with Bryce Young‘s rookie deal. Johnson and Adam Thielen join rookie-contract wideouts Jonathan Mingo and Xavier Legette. After inking a two-year, $36.75MM deal before the 2022 season, Johnson may not need to see how this season goes before determining Charlotte could work for him long term.

[RELATED: Diontae Johnson Sought Trade From Steelers]

Just gotta stay relaxed, just keep being humble, make my plays,” Johnson said, via Panthers Wire’s Anthony Rizzuti. “Help the team win the best way I can and my game will speak for itself. And if they feel like they want to extend me, then I’m all for it.”

Johnson’s contract timeline has proven interesting. He initially strolled into a walk year as the Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams contracts began a sea change in the receiver market. The Jaguars’ four-year, $72MM Christian Kirk proposal changed the market’s second tier as well, and a slew of Day 2 draftees in 2019 — Johnson, A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, Deebo Samuel, D.K. Metcalf — landed extensions. Johnson’s checked in between Kirk’s pact and the Brown-Metcalf-Samuel-McLaurin tier, averaging $18.35MM per year. He is now going into a contract year as the WR market is changing again.

Brown, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Justin Jefferson have surpassed Hill’s $30MM-per-year accord, and Hill joins CeeDee Lamb and Brandon Aiyuk in angling for a top-market contract. Courtland Sutton resides near the second tier; the Broncos’ top wideout is pushing for an adjustment as well. Johnson, who will turn 28 next month, can certainly aim for a contract north of $20MM per year. He might need to deliver a bounce-back season in Carolina to up his market.

Johnson has been tied to a slew of QBs during his career. Although Ben Roethlisberger will be a Hall of Famer, he was not at his best during Johnson’s Pittsburgh stay. Big Ben’s 2019 elbow injury ushered in a season of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, and Roethlisberger’s retirement brought in Kenny Pickett. The latter failed to justify the Steelers’ No. 20 overall investment, leading to a trade. Johnson has made do, with his crafty route running (with a drop penchant admittedly mixed in) aiding this lot of QBs. Sandwiching an 1,161-yard 2021 showing in Roethlisberger’s finale, Johnson totaled 923 yards (2020) and 881 (2022). The former third-round pick bettered his 2022 per-game average, notching 55.2 per contest — and catching five TD passes after famously being kept out of the end zone in 2022 — after returning from a hamstring injury last season.

The Panthers added Johnson and Legette to help round out Young’s aerial cast, which was thin beyond Thielen last season. Thielen’s three-year, $25MM contract features a guaranteed 2024 salary. The soon-to-be 34-year-old receiver’s 2025 money is nonguaranteed, giving the Panthers options. Another Johnson deal would align with Young’s rookie deal on a roster largely devoid of big-ticket contracts.

Carolina hired Dan Morgan as its GM this offseason. While Morgan did not have final say on the D.J. Moore and Robbie Chosen extensions earlier this decade, he was on staff when the Panthers authorized them. It will certainly be interesting to see if the Panthers move to extend Johnson before or during his contract campaign.

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