Last September the Pittsburgh Steelers signed perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate T.J. Watt to a lucrative contract extension. He went on to reward the team by winning AP Defensive Player of the Year for the first time in his career in 2021.
This year the Steelers’ top candidate for a long-term contract extension is All-Pro free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is entering the last season of his rookie deal, with the team having picked up his fifth-year option at a cost of $10.612 million, per overthecap.com.
Typically, the Steelers consummate extensions with star players in August or September, as they did with Watt and All-Pro defensive lineman Cam Heyward, who inked a four-year extension in September 2020 that keeps him with the club through the 2024 season.
But according to Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network, an extension for Fitzpatrick – who is regarded as the NFL’s “most complete safety” – could be completed sooner than one might think. On Monday April 4, she appeared with the PM Team on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh and weighed in about the status of negotiations with Fitzpatrick, as well as free agent safeties Tyrann ‘Honey Badger’ Mathieu and Terrell Edmunds.
“The Steelers need to — and will indeed — pay very good money to Minkah Fitzpatrick, and they need to save their money for him at the safety position,” noted Kinkhabwala, who frequently reports on the Steelers. “And I still am told that that deal is very close to getting done, so be on alert for that,” she added, before indicating she expects the organization to make Fitzpatrick the highest paid safety in NFL history.
Currently that distinction goes to Jamal Adams of the Seattle Seahawks, who inked a four-year, $70 million extension in 2021, as per overthecap.com.
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Honey Badger Update
As for Pittsburgh’s rumored interest in unrestricted free agent safety Tyrann Mathieu, Kinkhabwala says the chances of the Steelers signing him have moved from highly unlikely to somewhat realistic.
“They need their money for Minkah, they are not going to make two back-breaking deals for two safeties, especially when the second safety (Mathieu) is 30 years old (on May 13) and Kevin Colbert is repeatedly on the record saying if he’s getting a veteran player — (if) he’s signing somebody else’s veteran — he prefers that it’s a veteran off a first contract,” she said.
What’s changed is that Mathieu’s price tag may have come down, at least in part because Honey Badger has attached some value to the opportunity to play for Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.
“Honey Badger may not need quite as much money as I was told that he needed a week ago,” offered Kinkhabwala, who indicated that the Steelers also remain open to bringing back Terrell Edmunds instead.
‘An Offer on the Table’ for Terrell Edmunds
“I can also tell you that there is an offer on the table for Terrell Edmunds,” concluded Kinkhabwala, “but he has multiple teams interested and may not be interested in the Steelers’ offer — or maybe hoping for more money than the Steelers are offering.”
Presumably, the Steelers would like to have Mathieu, Edmunds or another free agent under contract before the NFL Draft gets underway on April 28. Otherwise, the strong safety position may become a higher priority in the draft.
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