Mike Mitchell was a 2nd round pick of the Raiders in 2009 based on his freakish athleticism (4.39 40 at 6-1 216), but he never really put it together in Oakland, playing an average of 394 snaps per season, maxing out at 508 snaps, and grading out below average on Pro Football Focus in each of his last 3 seasons. He only played 334 snaps in 2012, his contract year, as a reserve and was forced to settle for a one year deal in Carolina worth about the veteran’s minimum.
He turned out to be a brilliant signing for Panthers GM Dave Gettleman as he became a 14-game starter (920 total snaps) at safety, a huge position of need for the Panthers, flashing often and showing his athleticism. He wasn’t spectacular, but he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 35th ranked safety, slightly above average, and was a key part of a surprisingly good Carolina team, led by a stifling defense.
Now he gets a 5-year, 25 million dollar deal from the Steelers. He fills a position of need for the Steelers, slotting it at safety next to Troy Polamalu, in place of the departed Ryan Clark, but this is the definition of buying high. 12 months ago no one wanted Mitchell and now after one year he’s worth 5 million yearly? It’s not like he was incredible last year and much of his strong play was as a result of a dominant Carolina front in front of him, which, by the way, won’t be following him to Pittsburgh. Buy high deals like this rarely work out.
The only reason this isn’t a terrible deal is because there’s barely any guaranteed money, as the Steelers guaranteed just 6 million, which is his 1st year’s salary. If Mitchell doesn’t work out, the Steelers can get out of this deal after one year and have it be just a 1-year, 6 million dollar contract with the cap hit split over 2014 and 2015 (2.2 million in 2014, 3.8 million in 2015). That’s still too much for Mitchell and there’s no guarantee the Steelers are humble enough to admit their mistake if it comes to it, but that is worth mentioning. The small guarantee saves this deal.