Breaking Down the Harrison Smith $64 Million Contract Extension

The other day the Vikings signed star safety Harrison Smith to a stunning $64 million contract extension that will likely see Smith end his career as a Viking. Here is the breakdown of the contract from a league source familiar with the details of the contract.

Smith received $26.379 million in guarantees as part of the extension, $14.179 million of which is guaranteed at signing. The full guarantee consists of Smith’s $1.075 million P5 salary, a $3.525 million roster bonus, and a $9.579 million signing bonus He can also earn to to $300,000 in per game bonuses which was also a part of his prior contract. His salary cap number should be $6.916 million, a savings of about $3.33 million in cap room.

In 2022 Smith has an injury protected $2.95 million P5 and $8 million roster bonus. These will both be fully guaranteed on the 3rd day of the league year in 2022. There is also $100,000 tied to workouts and $500,000 in per game bonuses. His cap figure will be $13.46 million.

In 2023 Smith will earn $14.7 million, $1.25 million of which is guaranteed for injury. He can earn the same $500,000 in per game bonuses and $100,000 in workout salary. His cap figure should be $17.2 million.

In 2024 Smith can earn a salary of $14.45 million, $750,000 in per game bonuses, and $100,000 in workouts for a cap number of $17.2 million.

In the final year of the deal Smith will earn a $17 million salary, up to $1 million in per game bonuses, and $100,000 in workout bonuses. The cap figure will be $18.1 million.

This is a very strong contract for a safety, let alone a safety who will be 33 years old when the extension officially kicks in. Smith’s annual contract value of $16 million ranks second among safeties while his $45.9 million three year cash ranks third. His guarantees are in the top 10 at the position.

Has the Vikings played the contract out and franchise tagged Smith in 2022 it would have cost the team around $12.5 million. Smith will instead earn $15.3 million in new money over that same time frame, almost all of which is earned by next March. If things go sideways for Smith and the Vikings move on before the guarantees kick in they will take on a charge of $7.6 million on the cap and have paid Smith $3.75 million more this year than he was going to earn on his prior contract.

Here are the other players who would be in Smith’s age bracket who signed contracts in the last decade with the contract also adjusted for growth in the cap (using the 2020 salary cap as the basis)

PlayerAge New Contract StartsYearsTotalAnnual ValueCap Inflated Value
Harrison Smith334$64,000,000$16,000,000$16,000,000
Earl Thomas304$55,000,000$13,750,000$14,481,000
Reshad Jones304$48,000,000$12,000,000$14,242,000
Kam Chancellor303$36,000,000$12,000,000$14,242,000
Devin McCourty332$23,000,000$11,500,000$11,500,000
Kareem Jackson313$33,000,000$11,000,000$11,584,000
Logan Ryan303$30,000,000$10,000,000$10,000,000
Troy Polamalu313$29,600,000$9,866,667$16,246,000

The only player with a contract that would be worth more on an annual basis was Troy Polamalu who was two years younger when his extension would have started. The only player of a comparable age was Devin McCourty who signed for $11.5 million a season just last year.

The safety market has been virtually unchanged for the last few years with just minor growth in the market until the Jamal Adams extension which was signed just a few weeks ago. The Adams extension really should have had zero impact on the Smith deal given the difference in age and the fact that Adams was considered a unique player. Even if you look solely on the three year value, which is the more appropriate measure given Smith’s age, the contract tracks right along with Justin Simmons, who was the highest paid safety in the NFL prior to Adams.

History has not been kind to these signings. Thomas was cut after just one year. Chancellor lasted one new year, all of which was spent on PUP while Jones lasted two new years, the final year landing on IR. Jackson played two years. Polamalu played the contract out and signed one last contract with the Steelers.

If the Vikings were willing to make Smith one of the highest paid safeties in the NFL it does bring into question why they did not just do the contract last season when the market was around $14.5 million. They would have been able to use his two years of salaries as the majority of his guarantee and gotten better cash flow terms. Now Smith is on a much stronger contract, does not have to play on a franchise tag at 33, and has nearly $17 million in new injury protection without having to play a snap in 2021. If I had to guess the Vikings see a benefit in the two year cash flow of $30.6 million, but even that number is a few million more than having to use two franchise tags and I cant recall too many players at that age where the tag was a consideration in back to back seasons.

This contract will now set the stage for Tyrann Mathieu of the Chiefs to seek a mega extension with more data points to ask for the moon. This contract by no means is anything like the funny money contract the Chiefs did with Travis Kelce last year which was a model contract for an older player and one of the most team friendly contracts in the NFL.

In any event this is a great contract for Smith. He earns more at every turn of this contract than he likely would have if he simply played this year out and went into free agency or wound up tagged by the Vikings. Minnesota does continue a track record of avoiding too much conflict with veteran players when it comes to contracts but many of those deals have not worked out for the team. They will need to hope that Smith is able to give them a strong three years and avoid the age related breakdown that impacts so many superstars, while also fielding a stronger team than they had last year as a 7 win team featuring 30 year olds is not a winning strategy in the NFL.