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Harrison Smith now highest paid safety in NFL

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Former Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith has signed a five-year, $51.25 million contract extension with the Minnesota Vikings, multiple outlets report. The contract reportedly comes with a $10 million signing bonus and makes Smith the highest paid safeties in the NFL.

That’s a long way from the young player Brian Kelly, Bob Diaco and Chuck Martin inherited. When Kelly arrived in South Bend, Smith had just finished a junior season that forced the Tennessee native to play outside linebacker, the only way to keep the productive-yet-struggling athlete on the field.

But Notre Dame’s new head coach made it very clear that wasn’t going to be the plan with Smith moving forward.

“He’s always been a safety. If he can’t play safety, he can’t play. It was pretty easy for that one,” Kelly said before his first spring practice.

Smith proved Kelly correct in short order, putting together one of the finest seasons in the country in 2010. He intercepted seven passes, broke up seven others and made 93 total tackles  in his first season under Kelly. He followed up that breakthrough season with another 90 tackle season, breaking up 10 passes and tallying three tackles-for-loss before being selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Since breaking into the NFL, Smith’s been one of the league’s most productive players. In 2015, ProFootballFocus rated Smith as the NFL’s top overall safety. He was No. 2 in 2014. While he had another season on his rookie contract, resigning Smith was Vikings general manager Rick Spielman’s top offseason priority.

The 27-year-old Smith will now be under contract through the 2020 season.