Like T.J Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick’s new deal may come down to the 11th hour. Watt didn’t sign his record-setting extension last offseason until Sept. 9, three days before the Steelers opened the regular season. While it may not take that long, it appears that the Steelers are taking their time when it comes to negotiating with Fitzpatrick, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract after Pittsburgh picked up his fifth-year option last offseason.
“[The Steelers] won’t be rushed into a new deal,” a source recently told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler regarding Fitzpatrick’s contract situation. One would expect contract talks to begin to ramp up when Fitzpatrick and his teammates arrive in Latrobe for the start of training camp sometime in mid-July. Given their long-standing tradition of not negotiating contracts in-season, that would give the Steelers roughly three months to come to terms with Fitzpatrick on a new contract.
Similar to Watt last offseason, expect something to get done between Fitzpatrick and the Steelers before Pittsburgh faces Cincinnati in Week 1. The 25-year-old free safety has more than rewarded the Steelers’ faith in him when they traded their 2020 first-round pick to acquire him from Miami just two games into the 2019 season. Fitzpatrick was an All-Pro during his first two seasons in Pittsburgh. Last season, Fitzpatrick made a career-high 124 tackles while being used more as a run-stopper.
Fitzpatrick’s market value is currently projected at just over $61 million over four years with an annual average salary of roughly $15.3 million, according to Spotrac. That contract would make him one of the NFL‘s top-five highest-paid safeties along with Seattle’s Jamal Adams, Minnesota’s Harrison Smith, Denver’s Justin Simmons and Arizona’s Budda Baker.
Fitzpatrick is not the only AFC North safety that is in line for a new contract. Jessie Bates III was franchise tagged by the Bengals after the two sides could not come to terms on a long-term deal earlier this offseason. Bates, who played a key role in Cincinnati’s run to last year’s Super Bowl, reportedly has no intention of playing under the tag this upcoming season.