Steelers Restructure Derek Watt’s Contract: Report

Derek Watt Steelers

Sarah Stier/Getty Images Derek Watt #44 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts with his teammates after stopping Jabrill Peppers of the New York Giants on September 14, 2020.

Every dollar counts in 2021. That’s why the Pittsburgh Steelers moved to restructure Derek Watt’s contract, this according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, who says the move creates $880,000 of salary cap space.

The decision also ends speculation that the Steelers might release Watt, an idea that seemed far-fetched, especially in light of the fact that the team will soon be looking to extend T.J. Watt’s contract. Derek’s brother, T.J., is entering the last year of the rookie contract he signed in 2017 and is scheduled to earn $10,089,000, the sixth-largest cap hit on the team in 2021.

Meanwhile, Derek Watt remains under contract with the Steelers for two more seasons, as he signed a three-year, $9.75 million deal with Pittsburgh last March. He appeared in 12 games for the Steelers in 2020, playing 47 percent of Pittsburgh’s special teams snaps. But he was in on just 52 offensive snaps, a mere five percent of the team’s total.

It was the first time in his career that Watt did not have a reception or carry in a season. It was also the first year he missed any time due to injury, including a hamstring issue that lingered during the middle portion of the season. He was also involved in a frightening collision with a Cincinnati Bengals punt returner during a game between the two teams in December, one that left him with a concussion.

Derek Watt spent his first four seasons with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, who selected him in the sixth round of the 2016 draft out of the University of Wisconsin. All told he has played in 76 NFL games with 13 starts, during which time he has had 19 carries for 49 yards and a touchdown, plus ten receptions for 152 yards. He has also been credited with 43 special teams tackles (31 solo).

The Salary Cap Will Be $182.5 Million

Meanwhile, on Wednesday morning Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reported that the NFL has set the 2021 salary cap at $182.5 million.

That represents a drop of $15.7 million from last year’s cap of $198.2 million. The reduction arises from the financial impact of the pandemic, which left NFL stadiums empty—or mostly empty—last season.

In addition, franchise tag values for the 2021 season were confirmed Wednesday.

Pittsburgh did not tag a player for 2021, this after outside linebacker Bud Dupree was the team’s non-exclusive franchise player in 2020 at a cost of $15.828 million. The new salary cap takes effect on Wednesday, March 17, at 4:00 p.m. ET.

Per, the five Steelers players with the largest salary cap hits in 2021 are:
1. QB Ben Roethlisberger $25,910,000
2. CB Joe Haden $15,575,000
3. DL Stephon Tuitt $14,940,750
4. CB Steven Nelson $14,420,000
5. RG David DeCastro $14,297,500

Haden, Nelson and DeCastro are all entering the final year of their contracts, so they are not candidates for conventional contract restructures. Tuitt has two years left on his contract, so he is a candidate.

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