The safety market in free agency certainly has not dried up, but the money for it has appeared to. There are a number of legitimate names still available on the open market, including Pro Bowl talent, some of whom have been unrestricted free agents for the entire offseason, others having been released from a previous contract.
There is not, at least to me, any clear reason for this development, but it almost appears as though NFL teams are beginning to value the safety position to a lesser degree than they have in the past. Even the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to sign a veteran like Morgan Burnett on a contract that is valued below $5 million per season.
And one of their former veteran safeties is a part of that market in Mike Mitchell, who recently discussed the experiences in free agency of this class. He too expressed confusion about why the safeties are not getting paid, but stressed the importance of staying patient and focused and communicating with the other players in the market.
Another one of those free agent safeties, Tre Boston, did the same thing. Boston, who turns 26 today, is coming off a season in which he recorded five interceptions and eight passes defensed with 79 tackles in 16 games.
He said that he took a visit with the Arizona Cardinals, who offered him a contract that he considered disrespectful despite the “red carpet” treatment, though he did not divulge the amount offered. Describing the safety market as “kind of rough”, he said that NFL teams “got us where they think they want us”, but said that “we have to communicate with each other so we don’t take this minimum wage”.
Other notable safeties such as Eric Reid and Kenny Vaccaro, both former first-round picks, have had an equally difficult time scrounging up interest from teams, let alone contract offers. As for Mitchell, he is not known to have taken any visits himself.
As we get closer to training camps starting to open up around the league, there is a good chance that teams will begin calling and scheduling meetings with some of these safeties, as well as other positions that still have notable talent available, such as inside linebacker.
It’s not all that uncommon to find some significant names still on the open market at this time of year, but the number of prominent safeties, especially relative to the total safety market that was available, has been something of an aberration.
A strong safety class coming out of the draft might have influenced that to a degree—the Steelers picked up two for themselves, in spite of the fact that they also signed two in free agency—but that definitely is not a full accounting for why these veterans remain unsigned heading into July.