49ers news: How T.J. Watt deal with Steelers sets market for Nick Bosa

Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) /

The 49ers have to be closely monitoring what the Steelers did with T.J. Watt, making him the NFL’s top-paid defender, and Nick Bosa could follow soon.

At some point, the San Francisco 49ers know they’ll have to make a tough decision with regards to their top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, EDGE Nick Bosa, who was so dominant that year, he took home Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

Top-tier edge rushers are a highly sought-after commodity, and the best ones tend to reset the contract market on a year-to-year basis. During the 2021 offseason, it was the older brother, Los Angeles Chargers EDGE Joey Bosa, who held the title of being both the top-paid outside pass-rusher and highest-paid defensive player with an average annual value of $27 million on his contract, per Over the Cap.

Move over, Joey. There’s a new highly paid defender at the very top now.

On Thursday afternoon, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the Pittsburgh Steelers had reached an agreement with three-time Pro Bowl and two-time first-team All-Pro EDGE T.J. Watt on a record-breaking four-year extension worth more than $112 million, $80 million of it guaranteed, and an annual average value of over $28 million per season.

$1 million over Bosa’s current contract.

Watt certainly has a much higher pedigree at this point than Nick Bosa, who has still played just one full season at the NFL level plus some change.

Still, the Niners have to know it’s going to cost a lot to extend Bosa when that time comes.

What 49ers are looking at with Nick Bosa extension

With Watt now the NFL’s top-paid defensive player, it’s important to acknowledge the four highest-paid defenders in the league are all outside edge rushers, Watt moving to the top ahead of Joey Bosa, the Cleveland Browns’ Myles Garrett and the Chicago Bears’ Khalil Mack.

Nick Bosa is likely to join that list soon.

Of course, San Francisco won’t be able to get in on that extension now. Since Bosa is currently on his rookie contract and won’t be able to negotiate an extension until 2022 at the soonest, the 49ers can at least put off the immediate need for a while and come up with a long-term game plan.

Related Story: 3 predictions for 49ers DE Nick Bosa in 2021

That game plan could include observing how Bosa responds to the devastating ACL tear he suffered at the beginning of 2020 after impressing so much his rookie season. Any massive bounce-back campaign in 2021 would be exceptional, but it’s also possible the injury prevents Bosa from reaching his full potential at a rate both his older brother and Watt had.

Still, the market for Bosa isn’t going to be cheap. And even though his previous injury is in play, from a contractual standpoint, it’s highly unlikely he’ll accept anything less than the market-value price.

The Niners could let Bosa play on his fifth-year option, which would have to be decided upon going into the 2022 season, and that could postpone contractual talks between them and the up-and-coming pass-rusher for a while.

Based on how the market is climbing, however, that might not be the right move.

Fortunately, at the very least, San Francisco doesn’t have to execute any deal right now and can wait until after the conclusion of 2021, knowing full well whatever extension comes is going to be awfully expensive.

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