MANKATO – Vikings safety Harrison Smith said there are no plans in place to discuss a long-term contract extension until after the 2015 season.
“Nothing is going on,” said Smith, the team’s leading tackler a year ago and a versatile linchpin in coach Mike Zimmer’s defense. “As far as what my agents have told me and what I’ve talked to [General Manager] Rick [Spielman] about is we’re going to hold off on those and focus on playing good football and go from there.”
Smith said he’s fine with that, even though he doesn’t approve of the fifth-year option that teams hold over first-round draft picks under the collective bargaining agreement that took effect in 2011. The Vikings exercised their fifth-year options on Matt Kalil and Smith, the fourth and 29th picks in 2012, respectively. The options — $11 million for Kalil and $5.3 million for Smith — aren’t guaranteed except for career-ending injury.
“I’m obviously not a fan of the fifth-year option,” said Smith, the 29th overall pick in 2012. “Agents and teams know a lot more than I do, but it does kind of seem like a weird deal for the first-rounders. I just think that part of the CBA was poorly done.”
Smith is the 51st-highest paid safety under a rookie deal that pays him an average of $1.8 million a season. There has been speculation that the Vikings would try to extend Smith for fear that his long-term price tag will only increase as he takes another big step forward in Year 2 of a defense that maximizes his versatility. Smith led the team in tackles (120) for the first time and was the only player in the league to post at least three sacks (three) and three interceptions (five) a year ago.
“The contract stuff doesn’t really come into my mindset when I step on the field,” Smith said. “When I’m on the field, I want to go make plays. End of story.”
Smith has yet to receive Pro Bowl or All-Pro honors. But to suggest 2015 could be a “breakout year” overlooks how well respected he already is throughout the league.
“To be honest, I don’t measure myself by the Pro Bowl,” he said. “In my opinion, I broke out a long time ago.
“Do I want to be the best safety in the league some day? Yes. Whether I become the highest-paid safety, there are a lot of things that can happen one way or the other with that.”
The first member of the Vikings’ 2012 draft class to be extended was Blair Walsh, who signed a four-year extension that will make him the fourth-highest paid kicker in the league. Eight of the 10 picks from 2012 — Spielman’s first draft as general manager — still are on the team, including receiver Jarius Wright, safety Robert Blanton, cornerback Josh Robinson, tight end Rhett Ellison and linebacker Audie Cole.
“I love seeing that Blair signed because he’s awesome and he should be signed,” Smith said. “If other guys sign, that’s great, too. I’m a fan and a friend of those guys.”
Seattle’s Earl Thomas has the league’s highest average salary by a safety at $10 million. New England’s Devin McCourty ($9.5 million) and New Orleans’ Jairus Byrd ($9 million) are next.
Smith said the larger deals for safeties excites him because it’s a sign of growing respect and need for elite safeties that are complete players. He also said he now has the ideal defense to showcase all that he can do.
“Playing in Coach Zimmer’s scheme, especially as a safety, is awesome,” Smith said. “You get to play everywhere on the field and pretty much every role that a defender can have, you get to do at some point.
“That’s why, for me, I just focus on the football. It sounds boring. But play football, get the Vikings heading in the right direction and we can handle the other stuff later.”