Talks between the Pittsburgh Steelers and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick about a contract extension could reportedly heat up before the 2022 NFL season gets underway in September.
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported Wednesday that Fitzpatrick "will likely be aiming" to set a new standard at the position for per-year average salary, a mark currently held by the Seattle Seahawks' Jamal Adams at $17.6 million, but the Steelers may take their time.
"They won't be rushed into a deal," a source told Fowler.
Fitzpatrick's rookie contract, which included a fifth-year team option for 2022 that was exercised, will run out after the season. He'd be in line to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason, though the front office could use the franchise tag to keep him.
The two-time Pro Bowl selection confirmed in January he'd like to stay in Pittsburgh, but noted it takes both sides to complete a deal.
"That's not really on my terms," Fitzpatrick told reporters. "I would love to get it done to guarantee the future and have it all done, but that's up to the people upstairs when they want to get that done."
The Steelers front office is going through a transition phrase after longtime general manager Kevin Colbert retired at the conclusion of the 2022 NFL draft, and the organization continues to go through the interview process in search of his replacement.
How to handle the Fitzpatrick situation will be one of the new GM's first major decisions.
The 2018 first-round pick of the Miami Dolphins was acquired by the Steelers in a September 2019 trade. He's developed into a key defensive cog over the past three seasons.
Fitzpatrick, 25, recorded a career-high 124 total tackles last season to go along with seven passes defended, two interceptions and a forced fumble across 16 games in 2021.
Despite those strong baseline numbers, he received a lackluster 59.8 overall grade from Pro Football Focus.
That suggests there would be some risk associated with giving the University of Alabama product an extension worth in the neighborhood of $18 million annually.
If Fitzpatrick holds firm on that number, the Steelers may be better off waiting to see how he performs this season before deciding whether to agree on a long-term deal.