Based upon contracts given to other wide receivers from his draft class, Diontae Johnson left money on the table when he signed his three-year, $39.5 million deal Thursday.
Johnson, however, doesn’t see it from that vantage point. He also doesn’t think he took less money to remain with the Pittsburgh Steelers through the 2024 season than had he explored free agency in March.
“No, I felt like I took the right deal,” Johnson said several hours after signing his contract. “I’m not worried about what everybody else is making.”
If he were taking that stance, Johnson wouldn’t be comfortable with his decision. While his contract includes $27 million in guaranteed salary, Johnson settled for less than what other similar receivers from the class of 2019 have gotten this summer.
Seattle signed DK Metcalf to a three-year deal that is worth $72 million and includes $58.2 million guaranteed. San Francisco gave Deebo Samuel a three-year, $73.5 deal with $58.1 million in guarantees.
Those contracts were completed in the past two weeks. Earlier in the summer, Washington signed Terry McLaurin to a three-year, $71 million deal with $34.65 million guaranteed.
Johnson said he is content with his contract, which includes a two-year extension worth $36.71 million dollars.
“I’m happy for what they got,” Johnson said. “I’m not worried about their money. I’m worried about mine. I’m happy that I got something done.”
And once the contract was signed, Johnson ended his “hold-in” that had lasted since the start of camp. He donned pads Thursday and was a full practice participant for the first time since the Steelers reported to Saint Vincent on July 26.
“I’ve been ready to get back out there,” Johnson said. “It’s boring sitting back watching everybody practice every day. I was trying to protect myself and make sure I got the right number I was looking for.”
Although he hadn’t been practicing, Johnson attended team meetings, participated in individual drills and stayed after practice to get in extra work.
“I wanted to be around them,” he said. “I wasn’t going to not show good energy on a day-to-day basis. That’s not something I want to bring to the room every day: bad energy. Nobody wants to be around that.”
Johnson’s agent, Brad Cicala, was at Saint Vincent on Monday, the day Steelers general manager Omar Khan said he had started negotiations with the fourth-year wide receiver on an extension.
Johnson, though, said the Steelers never budgeted from their initial offer, and after considerable reflection on Wednesday night, he elected to take the deal. He conferred with his father, Cicala and Steelers players, who had been through the process before reaching his decision.
“I thought like (it might not happen) a couple of times,” he said. “I prayed about it last night, and I felt like it was the right decision.”
“From a coach’s perspective, I’m glad it’s behind us,” coach Mike Tomlin said.
Johnson is coming off his most productive of his three NFL seasons. In 2021, he totaled 107 catches for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns. He tied for the fifth-most catches in the NFL and had the 10th-most yards.
And with the loss of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Johnson is the most tenured wide receiver on the roster.
“He’s a significant piece,” Tomlin said. “He’s done a good job of staying connected through the process. His train left the station today. I would imagine it’s not going to be much of a transition for him to get up to speed.”
Before he agreed to the extension, Johnson had a base salary of $2.79 million and a salary cap hit that was the 16th highest on the Steelers roster. Even with the new deals, Johnson’s $27 million in guaranteed compensation ranks No. 27 among all NFL receivers. His average salary of $18,355 million in the 2023-24 season makes him the No. 17 highest-paid receiver in the league.
It puts Johnson ahead of contemporaries Christian Kirk, Kenny Golladay and Mike Evans.
“You see the numbers,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t trying to look at everybody’s pockets. They deserve it. I can’t control what they’ve got going on. I’m just worried about what I’ve got going on. I was able to come up with something.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .