The Pittsburgh Steelers may have closed the door on Terrell Edmunds’ fifth year option but they haven’t closed the book on his long-term future as a member of the organization. Edmunds spoke with the media before today’s mandatory minicamp and talked about having his option year declined.
According to this tweet from Steelers.com’s Teresa Varley, Mike Tomlin called to personally tell him the team wasn’t going to pick up the fifth year option that came attached to his rookie year. But he also noted Edmunds could have a future with the team.
Terrell Edmunds said via zoom that Coach Mike Tomlin called him to tell him they weren't picking up the fifth-year option on his contract, but that doesn't mean him staying is out of the question.
— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) June 15, 2021
Here’s the full quote from Edmunds.
“Coach Tomlin, he called me personally,” Edmunds told reporters. “Just told me that he wasn’t going to pick my fifth year option this year. He told me that that doesn’t mean that business is over, but just to stay motivated and come out here and do what I can. My emotions to it were, it’s my contract year now. So everything is on a whole new level. After this year every game is like an interview. So now you got to bet on yourself, you’ve got to double down on yourself and just put it in the hard work.”
Of course, you’d expect a coach to say that as at least a motivating tactic. Pittsburgh had fifth year options to decide on a pair of players this year: Edmunds and fellow safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick’s option year was picked up, a no-brainer of a decision, while Edmunds’ was declined.
In early May, Kevin Colbert said the reason was cap-related.
“It was tough not to do Terrell because Terrell has done some good things. Last year was probably his best season, albeit prior to the shoulder injury, which limited him really the last three games that he was active for. So, we didn’t feel good about not tendering him, but again, from a cap standpoint, we had to be realistic about what we would be able to handle in a given year. So, tough decision…it was really all based on salary cap and not his performance because, again, we think last year was his best year.”
Of course, if Edmunds had played at a Fitzpatrick type of level, the cap concerns would’ve magically gone away. Though the 2022 salary cap situation is uncertain, no one knows what the cap number will be, the Steelers know they should have a good amount of space. A lot more than they had this offseason.
Clearly, the team has been at least a little underwhelmed with Edmunds’ play since making him their first round selection in 2018. Edmunds has improved this game and Colbert is right, 2020 was his best season. He picked off two passes and greatly improved as a tackler, his missed tackles rate falling from 12% to close to 9% (and even better for much of the season, until the shoulder injury impacted him late in the year). But Edmunds has lacked playmaking and cover ability and the Steelers presumably want to see more from him in that regard before throwing a considerable amount of money his way.
Edmunds went on to say he’d love to remain in Pittsburgh.
“Of course, I would love to come back to Steelers’ Nation. I mean, they’re the people that gave me the opportunity to become an NFL player, made all my dreams come true. Definitely I’m still open for next year. Maybe we can make something happen.”
While it’s possible Edmunds could play well enough this season to earn a contract extension from the team, the fact they declined his option is an ominous sign. Generally, the players who don’t have their options picked up are playing elsewhere the following season. Granted, it’s usually because the player has been a flat-out bust and Edmunds certainly isn’t that. But he’ll have to take big leaps in his game, or be willing to take a team-friendly contract, to return in 2022.