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Updated salary cap implications of Minkah Fitzpatrick’s new deal & More Breaking News Headlines Today

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On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Steelers announced they agreed to a five-year contract with All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. While Steelers’ Nation prepared for contract negotiations to drag out through the preseason, it is a welcomed sight to know that one of the Steelers key defenders is locked in through the 2026 season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers official press release stated it was a five-year contract and that the financial terms were not disclosed at this time. Before the announcement, it was reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Fitzpatrick signed a four-year extension worth $18.4 million per year and $36 million guaranteed.

Another number which was thrown out during all the craziness as the breaking news the Fitzpatrick deal was coming out was a total of $73.6 million. This came via Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

Although at first glance some of these numbers may seem contradictory, they all line up. The dollar amounts make sense as $18.4 million over four years equals $73.6 million. With the Steelers reporting a five-year contract and others reporting a four-year extension, this simply means that the numbers associated with the $73.6 million total is “new money” and do not include Minkah Fitzpatrick‘s $10.612 million he was set to receive in 2022.

With all these things in mind, the best way to look at Minkah Fitzpatrick‘s contract over the next five years, based on reports, is as follows:

Total Money: $84.212 million ($73.6 million + $10.612 million)
Total Years: 5 years
Total Guaranteed Money: $36 million

So what does this mean for the Steelers 2022 salary cap? It used to be estimating a player’s salary cap hit based on the reported numbers was fairly easy because of how the Steelers did business. But with the contract signed by T.J. Watt in 2021, the Steelers did something they did not typically do in contracts— gave guaranteed money beyond the first year. Since we don’t know exactly how the guaranteed money is broken down at this time, I’ll look at two different possibilities as to how it would play out and the implications on the salary cap. Remember, these are estimates and speculations based on the given numbers.

(NOTE: The now reported numbers are included as an update at the end of the article)

Business as Usual

When reports would emerge about contracts signed by members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, it used to be the same formula to plug-in how to look for the salary cap hit the first season. With the Steelers only guaranteeing the contract for the first year, a report of guaranteed money would be the addition of two items: First year base salary + signing bonus. In order to keep the salary cap hit down for the first year, the base salary was usually at or just above the minimum salary for that player based on their years of service.

For Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2022, the minimum NFL salary is $1.035 million. If utilizing this equation, and throwing in an extra $35k above what was reported as the guaranteed money, that would leave $35 million in a signing bonus.

if the Pittsburgh Steelers set up Minkah Fitzpatrick contract in this way, it means he got approximately the same signing bonus for TJ Watt did the previous year. The difference would be white had more guaranteed money and a higher base salary in the additional years. If this was how things worked out for Patrick, he would have an average of just over $12 million as his base salary for the remaining four seasons. Well the years probably weren’t even with each season, that’s just a good number to keep in mind.

If this is ultimately how the Steelers structured Fitzpatrick’s contract, his salary cap hit for 2022 would be $8.035 million. With his cap hit before the contract at $10.612 million, it means the Steelers would be saving $2.577 million on the 2022 salary cap.

Before moving on to another scenario, it should be noted that if the reports were correct and the Steelers only guaranteed money the first year, this is the maximum salary cap hit you would see for Fitzpatrick. Any other scenario is going to have a salary cap hit that is less in 2022. Therefore, it is safe to estimate that Minkah Fitzpatrick will save at least $2.5 million on the 2022 salary cap. This is also operating under the assumption that he will be receiving the league minimum as a base salary in 2022.

Two Guaranteed Seasons

Based on the report of $36 million being guaranteed to Fitzpatrick in his contract, it is highly possible he received two years of guaranteed money. It’s safe to say the guaranteed money did not spread out to three years because it would mean there was a widely disproportional amount of non-guaranteed base salary at the end of his contract. Exactly how much? If there were three years of guaranteed money, Minkah Fitzpatrick would have non-guaranteed base salaries of an average of $24 million each year of his final two years of his contract. If there was no signing bonus for Fitzpatrick, that would mean he was getting $12 million guaranteed for the first three years and $24 million guaranteed for the last two years. These numbers simply don’t sound like a contract the Steelers would make.

If there are two years of guaranteed money that make up the $36 million that was reportedly guaranteed for Minkah Fitzpatrick, the ultimate factor is how much was a signing bonus and how much is his base salary for 2023?

Once again, this will operate under the assumption that Fitzpatrick will have a base salary in 2022 of the league minimum $1.035 million and we are throwing in the extra $35k as extra once again to give easier numbers to estimate.

This leaves $35 million left on the contract between the signing bonus and the 2023 base salary. While it would be easy to do a $20 million signing bonus and a $15 million base salary in 2023, I’m going to adjust that number a little bit more towards the signing bonus. Why do you ask? Before Minkah Fitzpatrick signed his contract, the highest paid safety was Jamal Adams on the Seattle Seahawks. Signing his contract in 2021, Adams had a $20 million signing bonus. Because Minkah‘s deal is a little bit higher than Adams’, I’m going to say he had a $21 million signing bonus which would leave $14 million as his base salary in 2023.

Based on these numbers, Minkah Fitzpatrick would carry a $5.235 million salary cap hit for 2022. If this is the case, Fitzpatrick‘s contract actually saves the Steelers $5.377 million in immediate cap relief assuming that all these numbers are perfect, which they are not.

Based on Fitzpatrick having two years of guaranteed money, the base salary for the final three years of a contract would average just over $16 million a season. Because of this number, the $15 million base salary for 2023 and $20 million salary cap hit might have been the better numbers to go with. If so, Fitzpatrick‘s 2022 cap hit would be even lower at $5.035 million and would save $5.577 million in cap space.

It’s All About the Signing Bonus

There is one key item of these estimations that was consistent in both and that was Fitzpatrick’s base salary for 2022. If the deal ultimately has a significantly higher base salary, which isn’t typically how these things work with the Steelers, then Fitzpatrick‘s cap hit this season would creep higher.

If the estimated base salary for Fitzpatrick is close, what ultimately will cause his salary cap number to go higher is the amount of the signing bonus. Knowing it can’t be any more than $35 million, which was the first scenario described, we have a pretty good idea as to the ceiling of Fitzpatrick‘s cap hit this year. If there were two years of guaranteed money, exactly how the cap hit shakes out will come down to how much of that was a signing bonus versus how much is the second year’s base salary. The higher the signing bonus, the higher the 2022 cap hit. But if that signing bonus goes down, so will the cap number for this season.

Once the exact breakdown of Minkah Fitzpatrick’s deal is reported, look for a salary cap update here at Behind The Steel Curtain.

Update

The exact numbers of Minkah Fitzpatrick’s deal and the implications on the 2022 salary cap have been reported by ESPN’s Field Yates:

It is interesting that the Steelers kept a $4 million base salary for Fitzpatrick this season. In doing so, and not converting an extra 3 million into a signing bonus, it actually keeps a higher 2022 salary cap hits but does not spread the extra money into additional seasons.

The problem with Yate’s report at this time is the numbers do not appear to add up with the given information. If Fitzpatrick has a $4 million base salary and a signing bonus of $17.5 million, the amount of prorated bonus over the five seasons would be $3.5 million per year. When adding those numbers up, it would appear Fitzpatrick‘s cap hit would be $7.5 million for 2022, not the $8.124235 million as reported. Where the nearly $625k additional money comes from for 2022 is not known at this time, nor is it known if it would go in the category of guaranteed money or not.

Assuming the reported number of Minkah Fitzpatrick’s salary cap hit for 2022 is correct, then the savings would be $2.487675. While this number is slightly less than the lowest one listed above, it’s still very close and won’t make much of a difference in the long run. Also, if the Steelers wanted more cap space from the Minkah Fitzpatrick deal, they easily could have slid almost another $3 million into that signing bonus from this year’s base salary.

As more details emerge as to the exact specifics of Fitzpatrick’s deal, they will be updated here.

For more information on the possible salary cap numbers for Minkah Fitzpatrick after his new contract with the Steelers, check out the latest Steelers Stat Geek podcast below:

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