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J.J. Watt's contract extension sets the stage for Gerald McCoy

J.J. Watt's new $100 million contract gives Gerald McCoy a target to aim for, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a framework to work toward.

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans have signed J.J. Watt to a six-year, $100 million extension, according to John McClain of Die Hard The Houston Chronicle. The deal includes $51 million in guarantees, and runs through 2021: Watt was under contract through 2015 under a cheap rookie deal. The structure of the deal may change the true value of these numbers, but it shouldn't radically alter the understanding of this contract.

This makes Watt the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL, and it also sets the bar for other impact defensive linemen -- including Gerald McCoy.

McCoy isn't quite at Watt's level, as no one really is, but this contract can still serve as a target and framework for an extension. It sets an upper limit: McCoy can't realistically argue that he should be paid more than Watt. But he does have a little more leverage than Watt did, as he's not locked up for two years, and using the franchise tag on McCoy is prohibitively expensive at over $18 million in 2015, and over 22 million in 2016. In J.J. Watt's case, the franchise tag numbers were much more manageable.

The Bucs have been negotiating McCoy's extension for most of the offseason. They've made him the central player in their defensive scheme, have called him the face of the franchise, and he's now the undisputed leader of the team as a whole. The Bucs are not going to let McCoy leave, and he and his agent know that, which gives them a little extra leverage in these negotiations.

Ultimately, I'd expect McCoy to come out of this with a contract worth around $16 million per year, with probably $45 million (three years of salary) in staggered guarantees. A deal not quite at Watt's level, as McCoy don't have the production to match Watt's statistics,but better than that of any other defensive player in the NFL. If Mario Williams can get $16 million per year from the Buffalo Bills, McCoy can get that from the Bucs.

A new contract for McCoy won't affect this year's cap, where he already counts for over $15 million. The Bucs have generally preferred a pay-as-you go system, which matches paid salary to cap hit and there's no reason to believe that structure will change.