Given how much of a fixture he has seemingly already been able to make himself, it might be hard to forget that Minkah Fitzpatrick has actually only been a part of the Pittsburgh Steelers since they acquired him via trade in the middle of September. He played the first 18 games of his career with the Miami Dolphins, including the first two games of the 2019 season.
It’s fair to say that he had an immediate impact, in ways that were both obvious and less so. He put up the splashy numbers, finishing his time with the Steelers with five interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble, but he also changed the way the defense functioned, as well as how it performed.
That is why John Clayton focused on that trade when he was asked about Bud Dupree and free agency while talking to Missi Matthews for the team’s website.
“The big thing was the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade. As crazy as people thought it was when they made it, it turns out to be huge, because that was the one thing that turned the momentum of the defense and put this into a defense right now that is going to be able to hold teams to 21 points or less and be ranked in the top 10 and make it easier with Ben Roethlisberger coming back to get his points to match it up”, he said.
“So I think now that things are really moving in a positive direction, but again I think that they’ve got to save some money now for the Fitzpatricks and the Watts, guys like that, because those guys are really good”, he added, referring to his belief they are unlikely to be active in free agency.
He also put the Fitzpatrick trade in the context of the Devin Bush trade, as well as broader trends that he sees going around in the NFL. The Steelers traded up in the first round to get Bush, giving up second-and third-rounders, before dealing a first-round pick for Fitzpatrick.
“It followed the trend of last year, because when they made the trade to move up to get Devin Bush, the recognition was there”, he said. “It’s like, ‘okay, here’s a chance’, because normally if you’re drafting like the Steelers do it’s in the 20s, I mean, you’re getting a second-round-graded guy who has a limited chance of making the Pro Bowl. So it’s like, ‘okay, let’s trade up here to 10, and we’ll get a guy that we think is gonna be a Pro Bowler for many many years’. Good move”.
He added that “there’s a whole new thing that the Steelers and a lot of teams are recognizing. If you’re going to be a perennial playoff team drafted 21 to 32, you’re not gonna have the guy for more than four years. because if he’s not playing at a Pro Bowl level, or goes to a Pro Bowl, you’re not giving him the fifth-year option, because that’s Pro Bowl-type money”.
Teams like the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs have made bold trades to go up and get their quarterbacks. New Orleans made a significant trade to get Marcus Davenport. It’s becoming more common to see players, and teams, on the move, in ways that were somewhat rare not so long ago, especially from more conservative teams.