Minkah Fitzpatrick

Latest On Minkah Fitzpatrick, Kenny Pickett Contracts

In terms of overall structure, the extension that the Steelers recently authorized for star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is fairly straightforward. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, Fitzpatrick landed a $17.5MM signing bonus, and from 2022-26, the two-time First Team All-Pro will earn base salaries of $4MM, $14.5MM, $14.5MM, $15.5MM, and $17.6MM.

What is particularly notable in light of Pittsburgh’s historic approach to contract negotiations is that, in addition to guaranteeing Fitzpatrick’s $4MM salary for 2022, his $14.5MM salary for 2023 is also fully-guaranteed. Before edge defender T.J. Watt signed his record-setting extension last year, the Steelers had never guaranteed any money beyond a contract’s first year for a non-QB veteran player. But Watt landed three fully-guaranteed years, and now Fitzpatrick has two fully-guaranteed seasons.

Former GM Kevin Colbert was at the helm when Watt’s deal was signed, and the Fitzpatrick signing will go on new GM Omar Khan‘s ledger. Khan, like Colbert, has been in the Steelers’ front office for over 20 years, so as Florio suggests, the Watt contract was not so much an aberration as it was a sign of an organizational policy shift.

Still, Fitzpatrick’s deal shouldn’t be particularly difficult for Pittsburgh to stomach. There is every reason to believe that the 25-year-old will continue to play at a high level over the 2022-23 seasons, and if the team does not want to continue the relationship beyond that, it will be easy enough to get out of the remainder of the contract. Given that the Steelers’ QB depth chart presently features a rookie signal-caller (Kenny Pickett), a former first-rounder looking to reestablish himself as a starter (Mitchell Trubisky), and a player who has enjoyed limited success in his first four years as a pro (Mason Rudolph), it will be especially important for their defensive stars to keep shining for them to to stay competitive in the near term.

Speaking of Pickett, the University of Pittsburgh product is one of just two 2022 first-rounders who have yet to sign their rookie deals. And it could be that he is pushing the Steelers to set yet another new precedent. As Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes, the structure of Pickett’s four-year, $14MM fully-guaranteed contract is really the only explanation for the delay. Many rookies push for higher roster bonuses and lower base salaries so they can get paid more money upfront, but the Steelers have never authorized that type of payout. It will be interesting to see if they make an exception for the player they hope will serve as their starting quarterback for years to come, and if so, how that will impact negotiations with future draft choices.

Steelers Sign Minkah Fitzpatrick To Record-Setting Extension

The Steelers have reached agreement on an extension with All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrickper ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). The fifth-year defender signed a four-year contract which will pay him more than $18.4MM per year. The Steelers have announced the signing.

Schefter adds that the pact includes $36MM in guaranteed money. The deal comes as the 25-year-old was soon to begin a contract year in 2022. He was already on the books for one more season at $10.6MM, by virtue of his fifth-year option being picked up. Now, he is set be with the Steelers for the long-term.

Fitzpatrick quickly lived up to his draft stock as the No. 11 overall pick in 2018 with the Dolphins. His time in Miami was very short-lived, however, as he was dealt to Pittsburgh midway through the 2019 campaign. The Steelers paid a significant price to acquire him, sending a package which included a first-rounder, but Fitzpatrick has been worth it up to this point. Starting in all 46 contests he has appeared in with Pittsburgh, he has registered 203 tackles and 11 interceptions.

His level of play has earned him a pair of Pro Bowl nods and two appearances on the First-Team All-Pro list. As a result, the matter of an extension had long been seen as one of the top priorities for the Steelers’ front office, now led by Omar Khan. The possibility was raised of the Alabama alum conducting a ‘hold-in’ during mandatory minicamp to try and leverage a new deal, but that will no longer be necessary.

The value of this contract will make Fitzpatrick the league’s all-time highest-paid safety. Jamal Adams had held the top spot at $17.5MM-per-season, but this deal is the new watermark in a positional market which could continue to be on the rise with subsequent deals. Extensions for the likes of Derwin James and Jessie Bates will no doubt be influenced by this one.

“Minkah is one of the top safeties in the NFL and we are thrilled he will be in Pittsburgh through at least the next five years” Khan said, via the team’s website“When we traded for him, we knew he was going to be an integral part of our defense and we look forward to that continuing as we prepare for the upcoming season.”

With fellow defensive pillar T.J. Watt under contract for the long-term already, the Steelers have another foundational player signed through the transition into the post-Ben Roethlisberger era. While questions remain on the offensive side of the ball heading into this season, the team’s pass defense will have one of its most important elements in place for the foreseeable future.

Steelers Rumors: Fitzpatrick, Tuitt, Loudermilk

As Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick enters the fifth-year option of his rookie contract, the 25-year-old is looking for an extension from the team that acquired him via trade three years ago. According to The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly, Fitzpatrick is a likely candidate to perform a “hold-in” if he doesn’t have a new contract by training camp.

As opposed to the traditional contract hold-out, a “hold-in” would see Fitzpatrick attend training camp while not participating in any serious manner. Due to rules in the new CBA, a player has to be fined $50,000 per day for skipping training camp. Fitzpatrick’s teammate, defensive end T.J. Watt, performed the same inactive action last year.

Here are a few other rumors from the Steel City:

  • Defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt‘s retirement this past week has some effect on the Steelers’ cap spending in the next few years, according to a separate article from Kaboly. As a post-June 1 designation, the Steelers will save just over $9MM against the cap this year. Because they put voidable years into Tuitt’s contract last year to spread out his cap hit, though, they will still accrue dead money of $4.9MM this year and $4.8MM next season. They do have the option to recoup a portion of Tuitt’s signing bonus from the contract’s initiation, but Pittsburgh has never pursued this course of action with any other players who took early retirements, so it’s unlikely they will do so with the grieving Tuitt.
  • One of the places Pittsburgh will look to replace Tuitt is internally. According to a third Kaboly-article, the Steelers have some hope that last year’s fifth-round draft pick out of Wisconsin, Isaiahh Loudermilk, will be able to replace some of the retired defensive lineman’s production. Other internal options are Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, and 2022 third-round pick DeMarvin Leal. Alualu is coming off a broken ankle, Wormley struggles against the run, and Leal is unproven and a tad undersized. Loudermilk saw plenty of action last year and proved himself as a sure run-defender, while struggling to create any pass-rush. Since the Steelers have pass-rushers aplenty in Watt, Alex Highsmith, and Cameron Heyward, being a stout run-defender might make Loudermilk the perfect option to take Tuitt’s snaps.

Latest On Minkah Fitzpatrick Extension Talks

Don’t expect a Minkah Fitzpatrick extension anytime soon. A source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that the Steelers “won’t be rushed into a deal.”

This could ultimately be the difference of a few months, as Fowler estimates that Pittsburgh could start negotiations with their star safety in July. However, if Pittsburgh still follows soon-to-be-retired GM Kevin Colbert’s philosophy of not negotiating in-season, that would give the organization a limited amount of time to discuss a deal. After having his fifth-year option picked up, Fitzpatrick has one year remaining on his contract.

As Fowler notes, the Steelers have been willing to extend their former first-round picks, with T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and David DeCastro all getting new deals before the start of their fifth-year option season. Watt’s extension also set a new precedent, as the Steelers were willing to offer guarantees beyond the signing bonus, something the organization used to shy away from. A new GM could change any front office philosophy, but the organization’s apparent preference for internal candidates (and their continued reliance on Colbert) indicates they want to keep things running as normal.

Fowler estimates that Fitzpatrick will be aiming for a contract in the range of Jamal Adams‘ deal, which reset the market at the position at $17.5MM. The 25-year-old could certainly justify a top salary, as he’s established himself as one of the league’s top safeties since joining the Steelers in 2019. Fitzpatrick earned first-team All-Pro nods in both 2019 and 2020, and while he didn’t earn any accolades in 2021, he still finished with a career-high 124 tackles to go along with seven passes defended and two interceptions.

Latest On Steelers’ Safety Search

The 2021 offseason has seen the Steelers make number of changes, most notably at the quarterback position. Another area of the roster which has become a priority, though, is safety. As ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports, the team has a number of options at the position. 

Fowler notes the connection some have made between the Steelers and the top remaining option at safety, Tyrann Mathieu. Given his pedigree and versatility – not to mention the unusually-large amount of financial flexibility Pittsburgh has this offseason – a deal between the two sides would make a good deal of sense. However, Fowler cautions that he is unsure how “real” that connection actually is.

That could lead the Steelers to a familiar face at the position. Fowler states that “a reunion is not off the table” between the team and Terrell Edmunds. The 25-year-old started 60 of his 64 games with Pittsburgh, racking up 340 tackles and five interceptions. With fellow safety Minkah Fitzpatrick only under contract for one more year, bringing back Edmunds on a short-term deal would at least provide continuity at the position for 2022.

Lastly, Fowler names Damontae Kazee as another noteworthy option. The 28-year-old spent last season in Dallas after four in Atlanta. For his career, he has totalled 12 interceptions (including a league-leading seven in 2018) and 7 pass deflections. Fowler reports that the Steelers “have him on their radar”.

Pittsburgh currently has just under $16MM in cap space; fitting in any of the three players named above should be relatively straightforward, then. Whether the team decides to add one of them, or go in another direction, could go a long way to helping their defense rebound from an overall disappointing performance in 2021.

Steelers Activate Minkah Fitzpatrick

The Steelers have activated Minkah Fitzpatrick, per a club announcement. After a short stint on the COVID-19 list, the star defensive back will be eligible to play against the Bengals on Sunday. 

Fitzpatrick tested positive on Nov. 15, forcing him to the reserve list, per the league’s protocols. The Steelers clearly missed him last week against the Chargers, allowing 41 points in a losing effort. They were also without edge rusher T.J. Watt and cornerback Joe Haden, but both players are trending towards returning as well. Watt, who suffered a hip and knee injuries against the Lions, returned to practice on Wednesday. Haden, meanwhile, is expected to practice tomorrow.

Through nine games, Fitzpatrick has 64 tackles, one pass defensed, one tackle for a loss, and one forced fumble. Besides linebacker Joe Schobert, he has more total stops than anyone on the Steelers.

Fitzpatrick has been a cornerstone of the Steelers’ D, ever since the mid-2019 trade that brought him to Pittsburgh. The Steelers sent first-, fifth-, and sixth-round picks to Miami in the trade, but they’d do it again in a heartbeat. In 2020, the 25-year-old tackled on yet another First-Team All-Pro nod with four interceptions, 79 total stops, and eleven passes defensed on the year. He also took one of those interceptions back for a pick six, giving him four defensive TDs for his career.

Steelers Rule Out T.J. Watt, Joe Haden For Week 11

Pittsburgh’s defense will be missing a few key pieces Sunday night. T.J. Watt and Joe Haden will not play against the Chargers this week.

Neither practiced this week after suffering injuries during the tie game against the Lions. Watt, who missed one game earlier this year because of a groin issue, is now battling hip and knee trouble. Haden is dealing with a foot injury.

This will further deplete a Steelers team that has Ben Roethlisberger and Minkah Fitzpatrick on its reserve/COVID-19 list. Mike Tomlin has said Fitzpatrick, placed on the list after a positive COVID test Monday, is unlikely to suit up. The team remains hopeful Roethlisberger, who has experienced symptoms after testing positive last Saturday, will start despite not practicing this week. The Steelers must activate Big Ben by Saturday afternoon for him to return to action.

Going through a contract year that is expected to lead to a free agency run, Haden missed a game earlier this season. He has been a Steelers starter since 2017, with his arrival coinciding with the team making a leap on defense. Watt arrived the same year, and his presence has been the top driver for the Steelers leading the NFL in sacks four years running.

Pittsburgh still has Alex Highsmith set to start Sunday, but its trade of Melvin Ingram stripped away a key depth piece — albeit one disgruntled about his reserve role at the time — from a defense that has dealt with injuries throughout the season.

The Steelers, who have been without Stephon Tuitt all season, also ruled out starting guard Kevin Dotson, who is down with an ankle ailment.

Steelers’ Minkah Fitzpatrick Tests Positive For COVID-19

Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick has tested positive for COVID-19 (Twitter link via Kimberley A. Martin of ESPN.com). Fitzpatrick will join Ben Roethlisberger on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, leaving the Steelers potentially shorthanded for this week’s game against the Chargers. 

[RELATED: Steelers Made Late Push For OBJ]

Fitzpatrick’s availability will hinge on his vaccination status and forthcoming tests. If he is vaccinated and does not present any symptoms, he’ll be able to return after two negative tests. If he is unvaccinated and/or symptomatic, he’ll be out for at least ten days. That would mean no Fitzpatrick for the Chargers and potentially impact his availability for Nov. 28 against the Bengals.

The Steelers, sans Roethlisberger, tied the Lions on Sunday with QB2 Mason Rudolph under center. They’re now 5-3-1 on the year, still within striking distance of the 6-3 Ravens for the NFC North lead.

The Steelers traded for Fitzpatrick midway through 2019, shipping first-, fifth-, and sixth-round picks to acquire the star safety. He earned yet another First-Team All-Pro nod last year, tallying four interceptions, 79 total stops, and eleven passes defensed along the way. He also took one of those interceptions back for a pick six, giving him four career defensive TDs. For what it’s worth, he hasn’t been quite as sharp this year — Pro Football Focus has him ranked just 88th out of all qualified safeties.

Latest On Potential Minkah Fitzpatrick Extension

Minkah Fitzpatrick won’t be getting an extension any time soon. Since the Steelers recently picked up the safety’s fifth-year option, the team “won’t extend” the player’s contract, per Ed Bouchette of The Athletic.

The fifth-year option locks in Fitzpatrick through the 2022 season, so there’s no urgency on the front office’s part to lock the player in to a long-term pact. After Fitzpatrick plays out the fourth year of his rookie pact in 2021, the defensive back will earn a fully guaranteed $10.612MM in 2022. Of course, this number could end up being irrelevant if Fitzpatrick and the organization agree to an extension next offseason.

Considering the haul Pittsburgh traded to Miami for Fitzpatrick (first-, fifth-, and sixth-round picks), the front office would surely want him in uniform for the foreseeable future. Fitzpatrick has also looked the part of a top safety during his stint in Pittsburgh. The 24-year-old earned his second-straight All-Pro nod in 2021 after tallying four interceptions, 79 total stops, and eleven passes defensed in 16 games. He also took one of those interceptions back for a pick six, giving him four career defensive TDs.

Fitzpatrick isn’t the only Steelers defensive back who’s up for an extension. We learned recently that Joe Haden was pushing for a new deal.

2022 NFL Fifth-Year Option Tracker

NFL teams have until May 3 to officially pick up their options on 2018 first-rounders who are entering the final year of their rookie deals. In a change from years past, fifth-year option seasons are fully guaranteed, rather than guaranteed for injury only. Meanwhile, salaries are now determined by a blend of the player’s position, initial draft placement, and specific performance metrics:

  • 2-time Pro Bowlers (excluding alternate Pro Bowlers) will earn the same as their position’s franchise tag.
  • 1-time Pro Bowlers will earn the equivalent of the transition tag.
  • Players who achieve any of the following will get the average of the 3rd-20th highest salaries at their position:
    • 75%+ snaps in two of their first three seasons
    • 75%+ average across all three seasons
    • 50%+ in each of first three seasons
  • Players who do not hit any of those benchmarks will get the average of the 3rd-25th top salaries at their position.

With the deadline looming, we’ll use the space below to track all the option decisions from around the league:

Updated 4-30-21, 4:24pm CT

  1. QB Baker Mayfield, Browns: Exercised ($18.858MM)
  2. RB Saquon Barkley, Giants: Exercised ($7.217MM)
  3. QB Sam Darnold, Panthers (via Jets): Pending ($18.858MM)
  4. CB Denzel Ward, Browns — Exercised ($13.294MM)
  5. LB Bradley Chubb, Broncos — Pending ($12.716MM)
  6. G Quenton Nelson, Colts — Pending ($13.754MM)
  7. QB Josh Allen, Bills: Pending ($23.106MM)
  8. LB Roquan Smith, Bears: Exercised ($9.735MM)
  9. OT Mike McGlinchey, 49ers: Exercised ($10.88MM)
  10. QB Josh Rosen, Cardinals: N/A
  11. S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Steelers (via Dolphins): Exercised ($10.612MM)
  12. DT Vita Vea, Buccaneers: Exercised ($7.638MM)
  13. DT Daron Payne, Washington — Exercised ($8.529MM)
  14. DE Marcus Davenport, Saints: Exercised ($9.553MM)
  15. OT Kolton Miller, Raiders — N/A (extension)
  16. LB Tremaine Edmunds, Bills: Pending ($12.716MM)
  17. S Derwin James, Chargers: Exercised ($9.052MM)
  18. CB Jaire Alexander, Packers: Exercised ($13.294MM)
  19. LB Leighton Vander Esch, Cowboys: Pending ($9.145MM)
  20. C Frank Ragnow, Lions: Exercised ($12.657MM)
  21. C Billy Price, Bengals: Declined ($10.413MM)
  22. LB Rashaan Evans, Titans: Pending ($9.735MM)
  23. OT Isaiah Wynn, Patriots: Pending ($10.413 MM)
  24. WR D.J. Moore, Panthers: Exercised ($11.116MM)
  25. TE Hayden Hurst, Falcons (via Ravens): Pending ($5.428MM)
  26. WR Calvin Ridley, Falcons: Pending ($11.116MM)
  27. RB Rashaad Penny, Seahawks: Pending ($4.523MM)
  28. S Terrell Edmunds, Steelers: Pending ($6.753MM)
  29. DT Taven Bryan, Jaguars: Pending ($7.638MM)
  30. CB Mike Hughes, Vikings: Pending ($12.643MM)
  31. RB Sony Michel, Patriots: Pending ($4.523MM)
  32. QB Lamar Jackson, Ravens: Exercised ($23.106MM)