While the Green Bay Packers are beginning their third and final week of OTAs on Monday, their rivals to the West are making some news with a major roster transaction.
One of the most critical parts of the Minnesota Vikings' defense is safety Harrison Smith. Smith, who was drafted out of Notre Dame in 2012, was scheduled to play in 2016 on the fifth-year team option that is available for first-round draft picks. Instead, the Vikings have chosen to get a deal done early, and it's a big one:
Source: #Vikings made Harrison Smith the highest paid safety in the league on a five-year deal averaging $10.25M— Andrew Krammer (@Andrew_Krammer) June 6, 2016
(Thanks to our colleagues over at the Daily Norseman for first bringing this to our attention.)
Smith has indeed been one of the best safeties in the NFL over the past couple of years, and he earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl in 2015. Over the last two seasons, Smith has played in 30 of a possible 33 games (including playoffs), recording seven interceptions - two of which he returned for touchdowns - and 4.5 sacks.
This move now kicks Packers safety Morgan Burnett down a notch on the safety rankings, bumping him from the 12th-highest-paid player at his position to 13th. His contract extension, signed in 2013, was for four years and $24.75 million, equating to a little over $6 million per season.
Burnett's deal runs through 2017 - as does the rookie contract of Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. However, Clinton-Dix is eligible for a fifth-year option in 2018, which the Packers will almost certainly exercise next off-season. If he continues to develop as he has in his first two years, Ha Ha could be on a very similar trajectory to Smith, just two years later. A $10 million per year payday should certainly be in Clinton-Dix's reach as the salary cap continues to rise and as he keeps improving his game.
For now, the Packers certainly have more pressing free agency needs to attend to, with several offensive linemen and outside linebackers, Eddie Lacy, Jared Cook, and Sam Barrington all set to hit the market (among others). Still, Smith's new deal certainly will affect the Packers' negotiations with their safeties in 2017 or 2018.