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Panthers' Diontae Johnson: WR market 'just motivates me to keep working' ahead of contract year

Diontae Johnson is heading into the 2024 season with a fresh start in Carolina.

After being traded by the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason, the new Panthers wideout has seen the WR market trend upward, most recently with Minnesota Vikings star Justin Jefferson signing a four-year, $140 million contract extension.

"It's crazy -- seeing everybody getting big contracts," Johnson said this week, via The Charlotte Observer. "It just motivates me to keep working. God will (provide) when I'm ready for it, so I'll keep stacking days and not really worry about that and keep pressing, because if I press it's going to throw my game off. ... Just gotta stay relaxed, keep being humble, help the team win the best way I can, and my game is going to speak for itself. If they feel like they want to extend me, then I'm all for it."

Receivers getting big deals has been one of the bigger storylines this offseason. In addition to Jefferson, some of the NFL wideouts to get paid include Michael Pittman Jr., DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown, Jerry Jeudy, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Nico Collins and Jaylen Waddle.

If Johnson would like to earn a payday -- he is set to earn $10 million this season -- the 27-year-old receiver will need to help quarterback Bryce Young turn the corner after a rough rookie campaign. Last season, Young completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 2,877 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and was sacked 62 times in 16 games played.

Johnson, a third-round pick in 2019, played his first five seasons with the Steelers. In 2021, the Toledo product produced his best season when he caught 107 passes for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns, earning his first Pro Bowl honor in Ben Roethlisberger's last season.

The addition of Johnson to Carolina's WR room was a need for the club. Johnson's ability to win off the line of scrimmage should immediately help Young in Year 2 to have a reliable deep threat down the sideline.

As he heads into his first season with the Panthers, Johnson is motivated to prove his worth entering the final year of his contract.

"Like I'm a diamond in the rough, I'm just going to keep elevating, and I carry that chip wherever I go because I still get overlooked and (still) don't get the respect I deserve sometimes," Johnson said. "So it just makes me go harder -- keep putting it on film, putting it in the league that I'm one of the best separators out there."

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