The Pittsburgh Steelers still have a lot of roster decisions for the 2021 NFL season. Between losing free agents, signing free agents, extending players, and various other moves, the Steelers will continue to be busy over the next several weeks.
Another deadline looming within the next two months has to do with the 2022 NFL season. Teams have until May 3 to exercise the fifth-year option on any player drafted in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. The Steelers have two players where this applies as they drafted safety Terrell Edmunds and traded for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and inherited his rookie contract.
Now that the 2021 salary cap has been set, it also allows for all the franchise tag amounts for 2021 to be set. Why is this important? Because these amounts also come in to play when it comes to the fifth-year option on players.
Exactly how much a players fifth-year option would cost was shared this past week by NFL Network‘s Tom Pelissero. It was also noted that some of the new ways players can benefit with their fifth-year option will help out Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick when it comes to maximizing his income.
This was a change in the 2020 CBA that will most benefit the likes of Quenton Nelson and Minkah Fitzpatrick, who are multi-time Pro Bowl selections.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 10, 2021
Based on the information shared above, the Steelers now know what the fifth-year option would cost for both of their starting safeties. For Mikah Fitzpatrick, his one-year salary would come in at $10.612 million as he has been selected to the last two Pro Bowls. When it comes to Terrell Edmunds, his fifth-year option would be $6.753 million as he has not made a Pro Bowl, but has played a high amount of snaps in his first three seasons in Pittsburgh.
Now that the numbers are there, the only question is if the Steelers will exercise these options. For the most part, the Steelers have used the fifth-year option on players. One player who they did not exercise this option was cornerback Artie Burns who became an unrestricted free agent in 2020. Before Burns, Jarvis Jones did not receive the fifth-year option from the Steelers and became a free agent following the 2016 season.
Getting off to a slow start, many Steelers fans thought Bud Dupree was not worth the fifth-year option based on his first three seasons in Pittsburgh. But with Dupree coming on strong in year four and five, he earned a more than $15 million payday by receiving the franchise tag for the 2020 season.
The fifth-year option works differently starting with the 2018 draft class as they fall under the new CBA guidelines. Instead of having their salary based on where they were selected in the first round, they are based on performance. The fifth-year options are now based on a percentage of the average transition tag by position, and a higher percentage is earned based on other factors such as Pro Bowls and playing time.
Additionally the contracts become fully guaranteed when they are exercised, not the first day of the league year that season. Also, a player’s fourth-year salary becomes fully guaranteed as well if it was not already so.
Now that we know a little more about what the fifth-year option will be for both Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds, what will the Steelers do with these contracts? Personally, I still think Fitzpatrick is a no-brainer to exercise the option and possibly use that time to give him a bigger contract. When it comes to Edmunds, the Steelers are probably in a very similar boat as the $6 million price tag does not seem to be too expensive when looking at the 2022 season. Regardless of how I feel about both players, I believe the Steelers will exercise both options.
What do you think? Will the Steelers lock up their two starting safeties through the 2022 season? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.