Pro Bowls Worth Millions to Steelers’ Minkah Fitzpatrick

Minkah Fitzpatrick Cameron Sutton

Joe Sargent/Getty Images Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and cornerback Cameron Sutton of the Pittsburgh Steelers react after an incomplete pass on fourth down against the Indianapolis Colts on December 27, 2020.

Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is going to earn $3,859,000 more than fellow starting safety Terrell Edmunds in 2022, for just one—er, make that two reasons.

On Wednesday the NFL issued a memo with the price tag for picking up the fifth-year options on 2018 first-round picks. There are four different price categories, but the big differentiator between the upper tiers and lower tiers is Pro Bowl honors.

Assuming the Steelers pick up the fifth-year option on both Fitzpatrick and Edmunds, Fitzpatrick will make an extra $4,039,000 in 2022 by virtue of having made two Pro Bowls, as he was named first-team All-Pro in both 2019 and 2020.

The salary for a safety in category III (no Pro Bowls) is $6,573,000. That’s Edmunds.
The salary for a safety in category II (one Pro Bowl) would be $9,052,000.
The salary for a safety in category I (two Pro Bowls) is $10,612,000. That’s Fitzpatrick.

The deadline to exercise the fifth-year option on 2018 first-round picks is May 3rd, and once those options are exercised they are fully guaranteed.

Will the Steelers Pick Up Edmunds’ Fifth-Year Option?

Some have speculated that the Steelers will decline to pick up Terrell Edmunds’ fifth-year option because he hasn’t lived up to his draft status as a first-round pick (No. 28 overall).

But it’s still a good bet that the Steelers will pick up his option—for two reasons.

One is that his play has improved every year, and he’s now better than most NFL observers give him credit for. In fact, PFF rated Edmunds, 24, as the 21st-best safety in the NFL last year, and he was responsible for eight passes defensed and two interceptions, both career highs.

Mike Tomlin: Edmunds’ ‘Best Ability is Availability’

The fact that he has been durable throughout his career also works in his favor, as he has played in 35 of a possible 36 regular season games.

After a standout performance in a 27-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in November, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about Edmunds’ progress since he was drafted. Tomlin immediately highlighted his young safety’s “availability.”

“You know, this guy has logged a bunch of snaps. I think his best ability is availability when you really look at his career,” began Tomlin. “As a young guy, he has logged a bunch of snaps and over the course of time he has gained quality experience because of it and he has taken that experience and continually made himself a better player really in all areas….

“I can’t say enough about his run game fits and the way he is playing in that element of the game here in 2020,” Tomlin continued. “But largely his game has always been on the upswing because he is a young guy that … is always available. And when you are very available and diligent it’s reasonable to expect your play to improve….”

As for the monies Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick will earn in 2021, Edmunds will take home $1,938,789, with a salary cap number of $3,403,842. Fitzpatrick will receive a base salary of $2,722,878 and count the same amount against the cap, as his signing bonus was paid by the Miami Dolphins, who made him the No. 11 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and subsequently traded him to the Steelers.

The last time the Steelers declined to pick up the fifth-year option on a first-round pick came in 2019, when it became apparent that cornerback Artie Burns was not a starting-caliber cornerback. Burns went on to sign a one-year, $910,000 contract with the Chicago Bears in 2020, but suffered a torn ACL during training camp and is a pending unrestricted free agent.

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