Minnesota Vikings sign safety Harrison Smith to extension

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) All offseason long, Harrison Smith said he had faith that the Minnesota Vikings would follow their established history of taking care of the players they draft with long-term contracts.

After a few months of discussions, Smith's faith was validated with a contract extension.

The rising star at safety signed his five-year extension on Monday, ensuring that the issue will not hang over the franchise or the player heading into training camp in August. Smith got a $10 million signing bonus, and his new deal that includes $28.578 million guaranteed has a maximum value of $51.25 million to make him for now the highest-paid safety in the league.

Over his first four seasons in the NFL, Smith has established himself as one of the best young safeties in the game. He has proven a durable, hard-hitting playmaker with 12 interceptions who is the leader of coach Mike Zimmer's secondary.

The Vikings drafted Smith in the first round in 2012 and have watched him develop into an impact player. General manager Rick Spielman has forged a reputation for locking up players that he drafted to lucrative long-term deals, with tight end Kyle Rudolph, defensive end Everson Griffen and running back Adrian Peterson just a couple of examples.

In Smith's 2012 draft class alone, receiver Jarius Wright, kicker Blair Walsh, tight end Rhett Ellison and linebacker Audie Cole have all signed contract extensions to remain with the team.

Smith was named to the Pro Bowl in 2015 and Zimmer has spoken of his desire to unleash the versatile player more in the upcoming season.

The Vikings added free agent Michael Griffin to compete with several other players for the safety spot alongside Smith, and the hope is that whoever wins the job will play well enough to give Smith some more freedom to roam in the Vikings' defense.

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