MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vikings on Monday made Harrison Smith one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL.
Smith, 27, signed a contract extension that a source said is worth $51.25 million over five years. He received a $10 million signing bonus, and $28.58 million of his deal is guaranteed in the event of injury.
Smith will make $5.278 million in 2016, which had been the final year of his contract. His new deal keeps him on Minnesota’s books through 2021.
“I couldn’t imagine a better place to play, a better organization to be a part of,’’ Smith told Vikings.com. “I just can’t say enough on how blessed I am to stay here.’’
Smith did not return a message seeking comment. He has spoken many times about his desire to sign a long-term deal with the Vikings.
With an average salary of $10.25 million, Smith becomes one of the highest paid at his position. The highest paid for 2016 could be Kansas City’s Eric Berry, who has a franchise tag of $10.8 million, although that number could change.
Smith’s extension is for a higher average salary than Seattle safety Earl Thomas, whose four-year, $40 million extension runs through 2018. If Smith’s salary for 2016 is included, he is on the books over the next six years for an average salary of $9.42 million.
Also in the elite group is New England’s Devin McCourty, who before last season signed a five-year contract that pays him an average of $9.5 million a year.
“It’s a good deal (for Smith), don’t get me wrong,” said Jason Fitzgerald, an NFL salary analyst who operates OverTheCap.com. “But Earl Thomas has a better contract because he took only a four-year deal versus five, and that’s a lot better for the players. And Devin McCourty probably got a better deal because he had a signing bonus of $15 million, and that alone makes him more difficult to cut.”
Fitzgerald said Thomas’ four-year extension is better for him because it provides more potential leverage for the year after his contract runs out. The final year of Smith’s extension isn’t guaranteed.
Smith was the NFL’s top-rated safety last season by Pro Football Focus, and played in his first Pro Bowl. Since being taken with the No. 29 pick in the 2012 draft out of Notre Dame, he has returned a Minnesota record four interceptions for touchdowns.
“It’s very hard to put into words right now,” Smith told Vikings.com shortly after signing his deal. “Coming into the league, getting an opportunity, getting drafted by (general manager Rick Spielman), being able to stay around here, just be a part of what we’re building here, what Coach (Mike) Zimmer is building, it’s huge in every type of way that I can think of, being able to stay in the building and chase that championship.’’
Tim Irwin, a Vikings tackle from 1981-93, was Smith’s eighth grade coach in Knoxville, Tenn. Irwin said Smith already has been gracious with donations to Knoxville Catholic High School, his alma mater, and anticipates that will continue.
“Let me tell you what kind of guy he is: He gets shoes for the high school basketball teams, and for a golf tournament, he made sure everybody on the golf team had new shirts,’’ said Irwin, a juvenile court judge in Knoxville. “He has never forgotten where he came from. He’s a quality kid. I can’t speak for him, but Harrison is the kind of guy, he’s going to do some good in the world with some of that money.’’
Irwin follows the Vikings closely, and he said they made a wise move in signing Smith to a lucrative extension.
“He plays tough. He answers the call every time he possibly can,’’ Irwin said. “He’s got a lot of special gifts. I think he’s a good investment for the Vikings. I would hate to see him in another color uniform.’’