Did Chris Jones deal screw the Steelers and their plans for T.J. Watt?

Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers

Chiefs standout defensive tackle Chris Jones signed a massive deal on Tuesday, potentially complicating T.J. Watt’s negotiations with the Steelers.

Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones completely reset the defensive line market on Tuesday, signing a four-year, $85 million deal to stay in Kansas City. While the deal locks in a championship core for the Chiefs, it also has massive ramifications around the league.

Defensive line contracts figure to be lucrative for the 2021 free agent class, and extension talks, namely T.J. Watt’s with the Pittsburgh Steelers, just got a lot more complicated.

Watt is under contract for the next two years after the team exercised his fifth-year option, but his stellar play was already likely to earn him a massive extension. Now, he will almost definitely make even more.

The former Wisconsin Badger has been prolific since entering the league as a first-round draft pick in 2017, racking up 34.5 sacks, forcing 15 fumbles and defending 18 passes in his first three seasons. Simply put, he is among the league’s best outside linebackers and deserves to be paid as such.

While the Steelers will almost certainly extend Watt, he won’t come cheap. With Jones signing for over $20 million per year and Myles Garrett reportedly closing in on a five-year, $125 million deal with the Cleveland Browns, Watt will likely demand upwards of $20 million in average annual value.

The Steelers will be happy to pay, but there will not be enough money left over to pay the other pieces on Pittsburgh’s talented, young defense. After the team traded a first-round pick for him in 2019, Minkah Fitzpatrick is likely a lock to be extended, but the list ends there.

Bringing back Watt (and Fitzpatrick down the road) will result in massive sacrifices. A Pittsburgh defense which is currently among the league’s best could look very different just two years down the line, and with Garrett’s reported deal, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert would be wise to lock up Watt before the price climbs even higher.

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