On Wednesday the NFL announced that the salary cap for 2021 will be $182.5 million, down $15.7 million from $198.2 million in 2020.
That has an impact on how much it will cost the Pittsburgh Steelers to retain starting safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds in 2022, assuming the team picks up their fifth-year options.
The details are explained in the following memo, which was issued on Wednesday by the NFL Management Council and posted to Twitter by NFL reporter Albert Breer.
Basically all you need to know is …
Starting Free Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick
Minkah Fitzpatrick was selected No. 11 overall by the Miami Dolphins in the 2018 NFL Draft and subsequently traded to the Steelers in September 2019 along with a fourth-round pick (which Pittsburgh used to select Kevin Dotson) and a 2021 seventh-round pick.
(In return Pittsburgh sent Miami its first-round pick in 2020, plus conditional fifth- and sixth-rounders in 2020 and 2021, respectively).
By virtue of being a first-round pick, Fitzpatrick signed a four-year $16,447,768 contract with a fifth-year option. Per today’s memo, he would be paid $10,612,000 in 2022 if the Steelers pick up that option, this by virtue of having been named to two Pro Bowls, as he was first-team All-Pro in both 2019 and 2020.
It seems almost a certainty that the Steelers will exercise Fitzpatrick’s option by the May 3rd deadline. Meanwhile, he is scheduled to make a base salary of $2,722,878 in 2021 and count the same amount against the cap, this according to overthecap.com.
Starting Strong Safety Terrell Edmunds
As for Terrell Edmunds, his fifth-year option is a much more manageable $6,573,000, as he has not yet been named to a Pro Bowl but has met the playing time thresholds necessary to qualify for the third (of four) salary tiers.
It’s less of a certainty that the Steelers will pick up Edmunds’ option, but it still seems likely.
Entering the 2020 campaign most NFL observers regarded Edmunds as an average safety, at best. But Edmunds—who is still only 24 and has developed a reputation for being especially durable—is coming off his best season to date. In fact, Pro Football Focus rated Edmunds as the 21st-best safety in the NFL in 2020. And while he had fewer tackles than in either of his first two years in the league, he authored career highs in interceptions (2) and passes defensed (8).
In the meantime, he’s been spending some of his free time working on music, inviting inevitable comparisons to former Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. In January, Terrell ‘Rell Money’ Edmunds released a video for his song “We Ride,” which appears to have been filmed on Pittsburgh’s South Side.
Edmunds stands to earn $1,938,789 in salary in 2021, with a salary cap number of $3,403,842.
The Steelers and the Fifth-Year Option: A Brief History
As for Pittsburgh’s history of picking up/not picking up fifth-year options, it’s worth noting that the team almost always does so.
The only two first-rounders who have had their options declined are outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (2016) and cornerback Artie Burns (2019), the latter of whom signed a one-year, $910,000 contract with the Chicago Bears in 2020, then abandoned his 2016 Cadillac Escalade at Pittsburgh International Airport en route to Chicago. Burns went on to suffer a torn ACL during training camp and is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
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