Now that the regular season has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: S Minkah Fitzpatrick
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: While nothing happened specifically for Minkah Fitzpatrick on Thursday, the Steelers’ willingness to include year-two and year-three guarantees in T.J. Watt’s new contract extension make it very likely that he will also be able to get some year-two guarantees out of the front office.
Players around the league closely monitor the contracts signed by other players who may be relevant to their own. They want to see who is getting what, and from whom. More accurately, perhaps, their agents watch this closely, and they bring these deals to the negotiating table as starting points.
Minkah Fitzpatrick and his agent certainly celebrated on Thursday when T.J. Watt put pen to paper on his new deal with the Steelers, which was unprecedented for the organization in his inclusion of guarantees in the deal beyond year-one compensation.
While I have argued that in many circumstances this matter is immaterial, there is no disputing that there has been a strong shift among players and their agents to heavily favor strong initial guarantees in their contracts, especially as they watch players get let go after only a year into a major new deal.
Players will even take less in overall value to get the guarantees they’re looking for, making the argument that the guarantees are the only ‘real’ part of the deal, the rest being dependent upon the team, as you play at their discretion.
So regardless of what others might think about the significance of guarantees, players like Fitzpatrick care, and he’s no doubt very happy right now with this strong signal from the front office that he, as a rare and exceptional player, may also be able to get some guaranteed salary past the first year of an extension that he will inevitably sign next year—hopefully earlier than September this time around.