Late Wednesday morning the Pittsburgh Steelers and star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick agreed on a 4-year extension worth $73.6 million, including $36 million guaranteed. This deal makes Fitzpatrick the highest paid safety in NFL history.
Fitzpatrick was drafted 11th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins but was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2019 season. Since joining the Steelers in 2019 Fitzpatrick has been named First Team All Pro twice and recorded 11 INT, 27 passes defended, and 3 forced fumbles.
Former NFL Head Coach Chuck Pagano, former first round NFL cornerback Kyle Wilson, and former NFL GM Mike Tannenbaum spoke with The 33rd Team to discuss the Fitzpatrick extension and how it affects the safety market going forward.
While this appears as a massive contract for the safety position, the talent and character of Fitzpatrick is undeniable.
Coach Pagano says that Fitzpatrick is “cut from the same cloth” as guys like Ed Reed and Eddie Jackson:
“He’s super athletic, and he’s got great size and range for the position,” Pagano adds. “He can play deep parts of the field, you can put him in the box, you can blitz him, he’s a great matchup to cover tight ends.”
Despite all the good things you can say about Fitzpatrick as a player, NFL teams often question the value of the safety position.
Mike Tannenbaum was part of the team in Miami that drafted Fitzpatrick, and he shared his thoughts on if having a player like him on your roster is worth it from a team building standpoint:
“Yes, just because he can do a lot of different jobs. He can play in the middle of the field, deep, he can play man to man in the slot.”
It takes a special player at the safety position to warrant a first-round selection, and a massive contract extension.
Wilson discussed the desire to keep this kind of special player on your defense, saying:
“When you have them you can’t let them go. This is what you hoped for when you identify a guy and trade for somebody like that, and then they actually go out there and produce.”
Wilson adds about the extension: “It’s justified with everything: His age, what they’re asking him to do. It all made sense.”
When asked about how he values the safety position Coach Pagano responded by saying:
“Guys that are productive and can turn the ball over, and then turn those turnovers into touchdowns, beauty is in the eye of the beholder with having that dude back there running the show.”
Pagano mentions Darren Woodson with the Cowboys and how he changed the value of the safety position:
“He (Darren Woodson) could run and really fly. They could match him up and use him in coverage and put him in the slot. He was one of the first guys that could do that. When you have guys like Minkah, Ed, Eddie, those types of athletes and the versatility that they have I don’t mind taking them in the first round.”
It will be interesting to see how this extension will affect the 2023 class of free agent safeties that includes big names such as Jessie Bates III, Derwin James, Jordan Poyer, and Adrian Amos.