2018 Offseason Questions: How Do You Value Mike Mitchell’s Contract In Hindsight?

The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.

Question: Looking back, how would you view the value of the Steelers’ signing of Mike Mitchell?

Assuming that he indeed will be released, as has been reported, the Steelers will likely be in the market for a new starting safety with Mike Mitchell out of the picture. While it has been suggested that he could be brought back at a lower price, I can’t think of any other examples of the team doing that outside of the mid-season return of Max Starks several years ago, and that was only after a disaster at left tackle.

All told, he will have seen four years and $20 million of his five-year, $25 million deal, the Steelers excising from their salary cap his $5 million base salary for 2018 (yes, he will still have a cap value in excess of $3 million in dead money from his original signing bonus and a previous restructure, for those who will point it out).

Pittsburgh signed him on the first day of free agency in 2014 after they parted ways with Ryan Clark, whose play was diminishing at the free safety position. But in his first season, Mitchell was burdened by multiple groin tears that he suffered in the offseason, choosing to play through the injury and have offseason surgery.

This proved to be a familiar pattern, but that doesn’t mean he never played well. In fact, I would argue (and I have, in the past few days) that he performed at a borderline Pro Bowl level in 2015, the second year of his contract, recording 80 tackles with two forced fumbles, three interceptions, and nine passes defensed.

Between the 2015 and 2016 seasons, in fact, he recorded 18 passes defensed, and a few of those came directly in the end zone, saving touchdowns. I recall that he spared both Artie Burns and Sean Davis a touchdown in 2016, and he had one against the Ravens this past season.

At a $5 million per season average, Mitchell was never paid like an elite safety, and he certainly never was, but I can’t agree with those who feel he was never a good player. Perhaps it has reached a point where it makes the most sense to part ways, as his repeated injuries have hindered him, but looking back, while the contract may have ended 20 percent prematurely, I don’t see it as a bad deal.

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