Speculation about Diontae Johnson’s future for the Pittsburgh Steelers has been running rampant during this off-season. The former third round draft pick of the Steelers is entering the final year of his rookie contract and the team has not decided whether to extend his stay in Pittsburgh or let him test free agency. However, Mike Florio from Pro Football Talk has added a new twist to the story. Florio published on profootballtalk.nbcsports.com Tuesday afternoon that Chase Claypool may follow Johnson out of town.
“The Steelers don’t care because they know they can replace Johnson via the [NFL] Draft. They drafted two more receivers this year, possibly planning for Johnson to leave. And for Chase Claypool, who considers himself to be one of the top three receivers in the league, to be next. A decade ago, the Steelers made an offer to receiver Mike Wallace. When he didn’t take it, they basically offered the same deal to receiver, Antonio Brown. Brown accepted. If the Steelers won’t go north of $20 million per year, neither Johnson nor Claypool will accept — and both will be gone.”
Steeler Nation has been very focused on the Johnson debate and is he worth the money that the team will have to pay him at this point in an out-of-control wide receiver market? Florio astutely points out that if the market is resetting for the position, the team has only two viable choices. Pay the going market rate, or gamble that Omar Khan has inherited Kevin Colbert’s Midas touch when it comes to drafting playmakers at the receiver position.
The salary cap is projected to keep going up over the next few years and with the Steelers in a prime position to pay playmakers while they enjoy a reclamation project and rookie deal quarterback salary, they can afford to pay at least one of the two at the top of the current depth chart. Claypool is the more physically talented of the two receivers, but Johnson has been the better player thus far at the NFL level.
Florio could be pointing out that the Johnson speculation needs to center on his play vs Claypool because the Steelers could ill afford to lose both players. It is almost inconceivable to pay a wide receiver that much money, but I never thought T.J. Watt would get paid $30 million dollars by the Steelers. Johnson has indicated through reports in the past that he was open to a team-friendly deal. It is not his fault that the wide receiver market got reset, but playmakers, despite the Steelers recent success, are not a dime a dozen.
Pittsburgh may have already approached one or both to gauge the number they will be demanding. The Steelers do have the franchise tag to fall back on if necessary but the current number for a wide receiver franchise tag is 18.5 million dollars. Sportsnaut.com predicted in a recent article the NFL salary cap could rise to two hundred thirty million in 2023 and they predict it could reach three hundred million by 2026. Assuming these numbers are close to correct, a team friendly deal could be in excess of 110 million dollars over 5 seasons by the time the dust settles.
It is a different NFL and the money being paid to players seems astronomical, but the NFL is not like other sports. There are no haves and have nots. Teams share revenue and the new TV deals guarantee that the pie will be sliced equally. The Steelers will have to ask themselves to go forward, if you are going to build through the NFL Draft, are you willing to pay the price when you hit on your picks? When you draft as well as the Steelers, that could become a very expensive answer.
What do you think, Steeler Nation? Do you want to see one, or both walk? Or who do you want to pay to stay? Please comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq.