Did Steelers make right decision declining Terrell Edmunds’ fifth-year option?

The Pittsburgh Steelers elected to decline the fifth-year option for safety, Terrell Edmunds? Was that the right move? 

With the deadline to hand out fifth-year options winding down, the Steelers exercised this option quickly with safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick. However, fans were waiting to see if his teammate, Terrell Edmunds, would be awarded the same opportunity. He was not.

Pittsburgh doesn’t often get into a situation quite like this – a situation where they have two young players who were both former first-round picks and need to be paid at the same time. Not only that, but Fitzpatrick and Edmunds are both safeties, and losing either of them could prove to be costly.

Nobody was surprised that Minkah’s option was picked up. Last year, he became the youngest defensive player to ever earn 2 first-team All-Pro honors. However, many fans are split about Pittsburgh’s decision not to pick up the option for Edmunds.

As a player, Edmunds is worlds behind where Fitzpatrick is right now, and his inability to create splash plays could have led to this decision. Still, there’s plenty to like about Edmunds. As a 23-year-old last season, Edmunds showed a major improvement from his 2019 season, as he surrendered just 362 yards and gave up 1 touchdown in coverage for a passer rating of 70.8, according to Pro Football Reference.

This decision to forgo the fifth-year option was interesting. But was it the right one?

Why the Steelers made a good choice

In the past, the team has been quick to hand out the fifth-year option without hesitation. When they are forced to choose, the decision is usually pretty easy for them. Artie Burns and Jarvis Jones were just plain bad, and there was no question about whether or not to bring them back. Terrell Edmunds is a little different.

The former first-round safety may not have lived up to his high draft status, but he’s not terrible either. In fact, the growth we saw from him last year is what led me to believe that Pittsburgh would exercise this option. However, I think they are playing this the right way.

Edmunds still has a lot to prove in the final year of his contract. If he is unable to take another step forward, then the Steelers will show that they clearly made the right move. However, even if he is able to step up his play, Pittsburgh would then be given the opportunity to sign him to a long-term extension.

With the way that the safety market is right now, good players are going for cheap. Only 6 NFL safeties are currently making more than $11.5 million per season, according to Over the Cap, and the highest-paid safety (Justin Simmons) is making just over $15.2 million per season.

Even though the fifth-year option would be just over $6.5 million for this season, it would have been hard for the team to fit that into their budget when the 2021 draft class still needs to be signed. The Steelers are probably thinking that even if Edmunds has a really good year, they will be able to offer him enough next season to keep him around long-term.

Perhaps the Steelers know they made a mistake by drafting Terrell Edmunds in the first round, and are willing to bite the bullet on this. Either way, I think they are making the right move by not exercising the fifth-year option with him. If he has a great season in 2021, then Pittsburgh can start talking about an extension.