To borrow a popular phrase, Minnesota Vikings' safety Harrison Smith is about to get paid.
He's still technically under contract to the Minnesota Vikings at a reasonable cap figure of $5,278,000 after the Vikings picked up his fifth-year option last offseason. However, the Vikings have had a tradition of getting their top players under contract before free agency becomes a threat, and it's expected that they're going to get that contract taken care of sooner rather than later.
There's a very good chance that Smith is going to end up as the NFL's highest-paid safety, and for good reason. When he's healthy, there might not be a better all-around player in the league at the position, and he's just now reaching his prime at the age of 25. He's the sort of piece that the Vikings could build around for a long time to come. But exactly how much would that entail the Vikings' giving him? To figure that out, we can take a look at three current contracts, thanks to the folks from Over the Cap.
The first one belongs to another player that is considered, in some circles, to be the NFL's best safety, that being Earl Thomas of the Seattle Seahawks. In terms of average salary, Thomas is the only member of the $10 million a year club at the safety position. Thomas signed a four-year, $40 million extension in the final year of his rookie deal in 2014. He got a chunk of the signing bonus in 2014, but the extension itself didn't kick in until the 2015 season. His contract looks like this:
Thomas' contract is set up so that the Seahawks could move away from him if they wanted to, and it wouldn't be a killer for them to do so. Sure, if they cut him this year, they'd incur more dead money than cap savings, but seriously. . .that's not going to happen.
Next we have the prize at the safety position from last year's free agency class, Devin McCourty of the New England Patriots. While McCourty's contract is less than Thomas' on average. . .McCourty's deal averages "only" $9.5 million/season. . .he got a much larger guarantee than Thomas did. While Thomas only got $14,225,000 in guaranteed money, the five-year, $47.5 million deal that McCourty signed last March guaranteed him a whopping $22.5 million. Among safeties, only Eric Berry has gotten more guaranteed money out of a contract, and his was his rookie deal from the year before the rookie salary scale was instituted. Here's a look at McCourty's deal.
The last contract belongs to Jarius Byrd of the New Orleans Saints. Byrd signed a big contract with the New Orleans Saints before the 2014 season, and as been nothing short of awful. For being awful, he has a cap figure this season of $17.4 million and the Saints would have to eat $6.5 million in dead money if they wanted to get rid of him. This is here to show an example of a bad contract, and the sort of thing we should absolutely not expect from Rick Spielman and Rob Brzezinski.
So, what are we looking at for Harrison Smith? I honestly think that he's going to end up signing the most lucrative contract for a safety in NFL history, surpassing Thomas in average annual salary and McCourty in overall guaranteed money. The interesting part is going to be in how the Vikings structure the deal. Brzezinski is one of the best cap guys in the business, and the Vikings are likely going to be freeing up some money in upcoming weeks after releasing some players prior to the start of free agency. I don't think anyone has to worry that Smith isn't going to get what he's worth.
As far as a prediction, I think we're going to see Harry the Hitman sign a deal along the lines of 5 years, $55 million, with $25 million in overall guaranteed money. For a player of Smith's caliber, I think that's fairly reasonable.
What do you think, ladies and gentlemen?