Harrison Smith signs $51.25M extension with Vikings

Harrison Smith will be the centerpiece of Minnesota's defense for a long time to come.

The former first-round pick signed a long-term extension Monday morning making him the NFL's highest-paid safety in terms of average salary per year. Per NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, the deal covers five years and is worth $51.25 million with a $10 million signing bonus up front and $28.578 million in total guarantees.

Smith, who earned two first-team All-Pro nods in his first four seasons finished with two interceptions and 47 tackles last season. He has eight picks total over the previous two seasons. More importantly, he is the quarterback of coach Mike Zimmer's defense, which had its best year in 2015 amid a return to the playoffs.

The development likely sets the stage for contract talks between the Chiefs and safety Eric Berry. Only Berry has a higher salary for the 2016 season at $10.806 million, though that number is set by the franchise tag. Seattle's Earl Thomas ($10 million/year), New England's Devin McCourty ($9.5 million/year) and New Orleans' Jairus Byrd ($9 million) round out the top five.

Talks for a Smith extension have been ongoing for some time and were expected to land before the Vikings hit training camp. The Notre Dame product was arguably the best safety in football last season and helped establish the Vikings' secondary as one of the most brutal run-stopping units in the league. The team finished 12th against the pass a year ago, surrendering just 234.9 yards per game and allowed 109 rushing yards per contest.

The deal achieves another level of stability for the Vikings, who are in the best position in terms of talent level that they have seen in more than a decade.

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