Vikings Make Harrison Smith NFL’s Highest Paid Safety
The Minnesota Vikings made sure they’d be set at safety for the long haul, recently agreeing to a mega deal with stud safety, Harrison Smith.
Per reports, the team made Smith the league’s highest paid player at the position, trumping a deal Earl Thomas signed with the Seattle Seahawks last summer by $10 million.
The deal is said to be worth over $51 million and roughly $28 million in guaranteed money.
#Vikings S Harrrison Smith signed a 5-year extension worth $51.25M source said. Full guarantee is $15.278M, total guarantees are $28.578M
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 6, 2016
It’s a wise – though costly – move by the Vikings, who have been themselves back into a playoff contender on an aggressive defense and a balanced offense. Head coach Mike Zimmer has put a major emphasis on hard-nosed, versatile defensive players, and Smith has certainly been that since taking over as one of the starting safeties since 2012.
Worth the Money
A first round pick out of Notre Dame in 2012, Smith has been a total menace when healthy, displaying his toughness with a career high 103 tackles as a rookie and over the years showcasing his ball hawk ability with 12 career interceptions.
Smith has been more than just a capable tacker, ball hawk or stat-stuffer, however. He’s been a vocal leader and a true difference-maker. Outside of a rough sophomore season that ended his season at eight games, Smith has been largely reliable, suiting up for two full 16-game seasons and otherwise missing just three other games across four NFL seasons.
Smith has even found a way to distance himself from other NFL defensive players in his time in the league, becoming the only player since he entered the NFL to manage to post 300+ tackles, over five sacks, 10+ interceptions and at least four touchdowns off of an interception.
Harrison Smith is only NFL player since 2012 with 300+ tackles (311), 5+ sacks (5.5), 10+ INTs (12) & 4+ INT-TDs pic.twitter.com/qkdz4MR897
— Randall Liu (@RLiuNFL) June 6, 2016
It’s fair to say Smith has been a huge part of Minnesota’s rising defense, one that climbed to 13th in league in total defense in terms of yardage allowed. Minnesota was specifically strong at rushing the quarterback, tying for 7th in the league with 43 sacks. Smith’s presence in coverage helped impact that number, while he even contributed 1.5 sacks, himself.
The 27-year old figures to stick in Minnesota for the next five years, giving the Vikings versatility and consistency at a position they struggled at for years before drafting him in 2012. The big question could be whether or not this extension pushes the Vikings over the edge, but Smith’s impact has already been felt. He has proven he’s a huge piece of the puzzle and at this point he’s merely being rewarded for his stellar play and value at the back end of a good defense.
Beyond this, the Vikings just need to figure out how to round out this team. Defensively, they seem largely set. They had solid success at times in 2015 and as long as they keep retaining their best players, they should be fine.
It’s the offensive side of the ball where Minnesota still faces their biggest question mark: whether or not quarterback Teddy Bridgewater can take his game to the next level. For now, the Vikings are again on the cusp of a playoff spot after winning the NFC North in 2015. However, in a division including the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota will need more than holding onto their star safety to ensure they have a shot at winning the division for the second season in a row.
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