A Pittsburgh Steelers veteran is looking to get paid big bucks on his next deal.
According to a report from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler on Wednesday, May 18, Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is looking to sign a contract extension before the fifth year of his rookie deal kicks in. The fifth year of his deal will pay him $10.6 million, which is nearly $5 million less than his actual market value, according to Spotrac.
However, not only is Fitzpatrick looking to get paid, he’s looking for a “market-setting” deal similar to the one the Seattle Seahawks signed Jamal Adams to prior to the start of the 2021. Adams’ deal pay him an average annual value of $17.5 million per season across four years.
“Fitzpatrick will likely be aiming for Jamal Adams’ market-setting $17.5 million per year,” explains Fowler. “He’s in the top five among safeties in interceptions since 2019 (11) and has 36 career pass deflections and two first-team All-Pro selections.”
Fowler also stresses that the Steelers will operate on their own time and a possible deal won’t get done until between July and September.
“Fitzpatrick, one of the game’s top safeties, now falls into that category,” says Fowler. “But he also knows the Steelers operate on their own time, which means we should look ahead to sometime between July and the September kickoff. ‘They won’t be rushed into a deal,’ a source said. Under recently retired GM Kevin Colbert, the Steelers also did not negotiate in-season.”
Fitzpatrick’s Presence in Steelers Defensive Backfield
Fitzpatrick has been one of the top safeties in the NFL since entering as a first-round draft pick back in 2018. The 25-year-old is already a two-time First Team All-Pro selection, having garnered the nods during the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Outside of his accolades, he’s been a turnover-forcing presence, grabbing 11 interceptions to go along with three touchdowns, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. Fitzpatrick led the Steelers in interceptions during the 2019 and 2020 campaigns.
However, he did have a down season in 2021, which aligns with the Steelers’ own struggles on the defensive side of the ball last season. According to Pro Football Focus, Fitzpatrick posted a 59.8 overall grade on defense and a 49.4 grade in coverage.
For perspective, that coverage grade ranked Fitzpatrick within the bottom 15 among all safeties with at least 100 snaps. If there was any saving grade, it’s that Adams — the contract Fitzpatrick is trying to match — had an even worse season, posting a 47.4 grade in coverage.
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Steelers Looking to Build Around Fitzpatrick
As noted before, the entire Steelers defense had a down season in 2021, ranking 20th in points allowed and 24th in yards allowed. For a franchise that has taken great pride in its defensive presence, that was the worst end-of-season rankings Pittsburgh has posted in at least 30 years.
With the Steelers looking to continue to build their young nucleus on defense around T.J. Watt and Cameron Hayward in the front seven, Fitzpatrick will be the focal point in the defensive backfield. Signing Fitzpatrick to a market-setting deal will likely be what it takes to bring back arguably the top young safety in the NFL today.
Considering the Steelers didn’t get new contracts done with Watt and Hayward until just prior to the start of the regular season in previous years, expect the same situation to unfold with Fitzpatrick.