There’s never a bad time to plan for the future, or at least it would have to take an atypical set of circumstances to make that a disadvantageous proposition. Still, when it comes to football and managing a roster, it’s good to know who you have under contract, for how long, and what it would cost to keep them that way.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, they have at least two critical players who are entering the final season of their current contracts—though one is anticipated to have his contract extended before the start of the regular season, perhaps quite soon. The other is more uncertain. But both of them made The Athletic’s list of the top 30 free agents for 2023—in fact, they were both in the top 20.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, the fifth-year safety, was the first on the list for Pittsburgh, ranking at number nine. He was acquired via trade in 2019 during his second season, and his currently scheduled to play under his fifth-year option year. Sheil Kapadia wrote:
He has played 99% of the Steelers’ defensive snaps since joining the team during the 2019 season. In 46 games with Pittsburgh, Fitzpatrick has 11 interceptions and 27 passes defended. He set career highs last year with 124 total tackles and 84 solo tackles. Fitzpatrick is a two-time first-team All Pro. Given his age, durability and production, Fitzpatrick could become the NFL’s highest-paid safety with a deal worth $18 million per year or more.
It has already been reported that the Steelers are not only in current contract negotiations with Fitzpatrick, but that there has been good progress on that deal, and that the deal should make him the highest-paid safety in NFL history.
Pittsburgh is not unfamiliar with being in uncharted territory when it comes to player compensation. They’ve had numerous players over the years rank at or near the top of their position in payscale. Which makes it hard to see them get Diontae Johnson extended before the start of this season. Johnson ranked 18th on the list:
Johnson has flown a little under the radar given how tough the Steelers’ passing game has been to watch in recent years. But over the past three seasons, his 2,764 receiving yards rank 22nd league-wide. Johnson ranked 10th last season with 1,161 yards on 107 receptions. Given that Christian Kirk got $18 million per year on the open market, it seems reasonable to project that Johnson would find a rich deal if he were to hit free agency next offseason.
Wide receivers get paid. They’re starting to tip the scales at $30 million per year. If the Steelers were to extend him now, Johnson wouldn’t get top-market money, but would he sign for less than Kirk got without giving himself the chance at at least getting franchise tagged next year? I highly doubt it.