T.J. Watt forced the Steelers to change the way they do business.
Before Watt’s 2021 contract, the Steelers did not include guarantees beyond the first year of a non-quarterback veteran deal. For Watt, they did it. The question became whether it was an aberration or part of a new trend.
For now, it’s looking like it’s a new trend.
Per a source with knowledge of the terms of the deal, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick received $14.5 million in full guarantees in 2023. Coupled with $21.5 million in 2022, that’s $36 million fully guaranteed at signing.
Here are the full details:
1. Signing bonus: $17.5 million.
2. 2022 base salary: $4 million.
3. 2022 90-man roster bonus: $624,235.
4. 2023 base salary: $14.5 million, fully guaranteed at signing.
5. 2024 base salary: $14.5 million.
6. 2025 base salary: $15.5 million.
7. 2026 base salary: $17.6 million.
He was due make $10.612 million in 2022, along with a 17th game check of $624,235. (That payment became his 90-man roster bonus, surely not coincidentally.)
The contract has a new-money average of $18.247 million. At signing, it’s an annual average of $16.844 million.
As a practical matter, it’s a firm two-year deal with a team-held option for each of the last three years. There’s currently no reason to think the Steelers wouldn’t keep him, but they’ll have the flexibility to move on, since there are no guarantees in 2024, 2025, or 2026.
With the Steelers finally joining the bulk of the league in guaranteeing payments beyond the first year of veteran, non-quarterback contracts, only the Bengals and Packers continue to confine guaranteed payments to the initial season of such deals.