On Thursday morning, S Minkah Fitzpatrick addressed the media in a team press conference after agreeing to a four-year contract extension with a new money average of $18.4 million per year. $36 million of that is guaranteed at signing, per the report, making him the highest-paid safety in the NFL history.
After being asked about the importance of getting the contract done before training camp got underway in Latrobe on July 26, Fitzpatrick pointed to his teammates and how vital it was for him to out there with them from the jump.
“It was important,” Fitzpatrick answered. “I wanted to be out there with my teammates practicing and competing and thankfully we got it done in the timing that we did.”
Despite showing up for OTAs and mandatory minicamp, it appeared as if Minkah Fitzpatrick was heading toward a “hold in” of sorts, being a bystander for team portions of practice, undoubtedly due to his unsettled contract status. Still, while not actively taking part in all drills and practices sessions, Fitzpatrick was lauded by his teammates, including fellow safety Terrell Edmunds, who praised him for staying engaged and serving a coaching role to the other defensive backs who got the physical reps in practice.
Many players that are seeking a new contract often distance themselves from the team by either not participating in the practice sessions or staying away from the facility altogether, taking on fines from the team to show their displeasure with the lack of a long-term deal getting done. This was not the case for Fitzpatrick, who wanted to be around his coaches and teammates as much as he could while going through the contract negotiation process, participating where he could and still being a watchful eye and helping hand to other DBs out on the field.
However, when asked about how this contract extension got done so quickly compared to previous extensions the Steelers have done that go up to the final hour in training camp like T.J. Watt last season, Fitzpatrick acknowledged that it was indeed Pittsburgh that made the first move to get a deal done early.
“That’s just what Omar [Khan] and Mr. Rooney wanted to do,” Fitzpatrick responded to the question posed during the press conference shown on the team’s YouTube page. “They reached out a few weeks ago and said that they were ready to start the negotiation process. We sent an offer. They sent an offer first, but we went back and forth for a while, and I guess this is when the wanted to get it done.”
As Alex Kozora pointed out in a recent article after the Fitzpatrick extension, new GM Omar Khan has already made a subtle tweak to Kevin Colbert’s old model of doing business. Instead of waiting for training camp to start the negotiation process with players they want to re-sign, Khan went ahead likely with owner Art Rooney II’s approval to get pen to paper on the contract extension with Fitzpatrick well before the team reported to Latrobe for training camp. This speeding up of the process allowed Pittsburgh to avoid any potential “hold in” from Fitzpatrick, basically guaranteeing that he will be out there the first day of practice with his teammates instead of standing around in street clothes watching from the sidelines.
Getting the deal done with Fitzpatrick early also alleviated the stress on both sides to iron out a deal before the start of the regular season for both sides, allowing Fitzpatrick and his agency to rest assured that they have their money and for Pittsburgh to check off Priority #1 off their offseason checklist. As pointed out on the site, the timely manner of the Fitzpatrick deal now allows Pittsburgh to go to the negotiation table with WR Diontae Johnson and see if a fair deal for both sides can be agreed upon before the regular season. The same could be said for K Chris Boswell, who is also expected to sign a contract extension in the near future.