The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Terrell Edmunds is worth his fifth-year option value of $6.753 million in 2022.
Explanation: Since the 2011 CBA, first-round draft picks have signed four-year contracts that contain a team option for a fifth year at an accelerated rate of pay, which must be exercised in the offseason of the player’s fourth season. In the 2020 CBA, that fifth-year option becomes fully guaranteed when exercised. Edmunds, as a non-Pro Bowl starting safety, had his option value set at $6.573,000 for 2022, so that is what he would earn if the Steelers exercise his option and do not give him a new deal before then.
When you look at the secondary right now and see the losses of Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton, I don’t know how you could even think about adding further losses. Terrell Edmunds is a still young and ascending player who is continuing to grow in tandem with Minkah Fitzpatrick.
He is also coming off of his best season, both in terms of consistency and impact, finishing the year with a pair of interceptions and eight passes defensed. He only turned 24 in January even though he already has three NFL seasons and 43 (effectively 46) starts under his belt. Under $7 million isn’t even a dramatically large number to pay an average starting safety. There are 20 safeties being paid that amount right now.
But Fitzpatrick will become one of them a year from now—in fact, he’ll be earning double that amount. And the salary cap is not going to skyrocket in 2022 like many seem to expect. It’ll go up, but not as much as some think. There will still be years of accounting for the effects of the pandemic, and the new TV deals don’t kick in until 2023.
There is also the important reality that the Steelers don’t have to have him under contract in 2022 in order to retain him. They can allow him to play out the final year of his rookie deal and then hope to work out a long-term extension that pays him a healthier per-year salary better reflecting his play up to this point. Either way, if he is in Pittsburgh, it probably wouldn’t be under the terms of the option year.