NFL teams typically don't turn their attention to fifth-year options until the conclusion of the NFL Draft, which took place April 23-25 this year, when the window to pick up options is coming to a close. The window with 2017 first-round picks began last December 30, a day after the 2019 regular season ended. The options must be exercised prior to May 5.
The new NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement is changing how fifth-year options operate, but the modifications will apply beginning with 2018 first-round picks. This means 2017 first-round picks are grandfathered under the 2011 CBA rules.
For 2017 first-round picks, the fifth year is guaranteed for injury when the option is exercised. Their option years become fully guaranteed on the first day of the league year in the fifth contract year, which will be mid-March 2021.
Teams that pick up the option year rarely release a player before the full guarantee takes effect. Most notably, the Redskins released quarterback Robert Griffin III in early March 2016 before his $16.155 million option year became fully guaranteed. The Texans cut cornerback Vernon Hargreaves in February to avoid his $9.594 million fifth-year salary from becoming fully guaranteed. Hargreaves re-signed with the Texans on a one-year deal worth $1.325 million in early April.
Contracts for draft choices can't be renegotiated until the conclusion of a player's third regular season, which means players selected in the 2017 draft are eligible to sign new deals. Most first-round picks don't get contracts extended before their fourth season. Three 2016 first-round picks, Rams quarterback Jared Goff, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, signed new deals after their third season.
There's a difference in option year salary depending on where in the first round a player is drafted. The fifth-year salary for the top 10 picks is the transition tender (average of the 10 highest salaries) at a player's position when the option is exercised. With players selected outside of the top 10 (picks 11-32), the fifth-year salary is the average of the third through 25th-highest salaries at a player's position.
The chart below contains the fifth year option year salaries for 2017 first-round picks.
|Position||1st 10 Picks||Picks 11-32|
All 32 first-round picks were eligible for the fifth-year option when the 2019 regular season ended. Here's the option year prognosis for each 2017 first-round pick.
1. Browns DE Myles Garrett
Garrett's indefinite suspension last season for removing Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph's helmet and subsequently striking him in the head with it, which amounted to six games after commissioner Roger Goodell's reinstatement in February, was never going affect Cleveland's decision on exercising the option year. It may delay the timing on a contract extension to next year. Garrett's ability to consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks should allow him to surpass the $20 million per mark whenever he signs an extension. His 23.5 sacks over last two seasons are seventh in the NFL during this span although he only played 26 games.
2. Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky
Nick Foles was acquired from the Jaguars in a trade because the Bears haven't been satisfied with Trubisky. It will be an open competition between Foles and Trubisky for Chicago's starting quarterback job. $24.837 million in 2021 is an awfully steep price for a quarterback that may be a backup this season.
3. 49ers DL Solomon Thomas
Thomas hasn't come close to living up to the potential of his draft spot. His defensive snaps decreased from 60 percent in 2018 to 41.4 percent last season. Rotational defensive linemen are a lot cheaper that Thomas' option year salary.
4. Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette
The Jaguars unsuccessfully trying to trade Fournette during last week's draft doesn't bode well for his fifth-year option getting picked up. Fournette set career highs in 2019 with 1,152 rushing yards, 76 receptions, 522 receiving yards, 1,674 yards from scrimmage and 4.3 yards per carry. He was sixth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage.
5. Titans WR Corey Davis
It's hard to justify a $15.68 million option when Davis hasn't had a true breakout season. In the 2019, his production was on par with No. 2 wide receivers (43 receptions, 601 yards, two touchdowns), as 2019 second-round pick A.J. Brown was becoming quarterback Ryan Tannehill's favorite target.
6. Jets S Jamal Adams
The Jets picked up Adams' option on Monday. He is skipping the virtual offseason program because he wants a new contract. Adams could become the NFL's first $15 million per year safety if either of the two that were franchised this year, Anthony Harris (Vikings) or Justin Simmons (Broncos), don't beat him to it.
7. Chargers WR Mike Williams
Williams led the NFL with 20.4 yards per catch in 2019 while having his first 1,000-receiving-yard season with 1,001 yards. With the Chargers using the 2020 draft's sixth overall pick on Justin Herbert, the quarterback of the future, it probably makes sense to ensure that 2020 isn't Williams' last season in Los Angeles.
8. Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey
The Panthers were proactive with McCaffrey. He reset the running back market a couple of weeks with a four-year extension, which factors in the fifth-year option, averaging $16,015,053 per year with $39,162,500 in guarantees.
Option: n/a (Extended)
9. Bengals WR John Ross
The Bengals taking Tee Higgins in the second round of the NFL Draft suggest that Ross' option won't be picked up. Ross has missed 24 of a possible 48 games in his three NFL seasons but did show flashes early last season with back-to-back 100 receiving yard games before going on injured reserve for eight games with a sternoclavicular joint injury.
10. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes
Now that the draft is over, the Chiefs are reportedly going to focus on an extension for the 2018 NFL MVP. Mahomes should become the league's first $40 million per year player when he signs a new contract.
11. Saints CB Marshon Lattimore
The Saints picked up Lattimore's option in March. He should be on track for a long-term deal in excess of the five-year contract averaging $16.5 million per year with cornerback records of $54.375 million in guarantees and $46 million fully guaranteed Byron Jones received from the Dolphins in this year's free agency before the start of the 2021 season.
12. Texans QB Deshaun Watson
The Texans have engaged in very preliminary contract discussions with Watson according to ESPN's Ed Werder. Watson shouldn't be in a hurry to sign a new contract. Letting Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and Mahomes go first should only help Watson financially.
13. Cardinals LB Haason Reddick
Reddick probably doesn't have a future in Arizona with De'Vondre Campbell in being signed in free agency and the Cardinals using the eighth overall pick in the 2020 draft on Isaiah Simmons. Losing playing time last season to Joe Walker, who signed a one-year deal worth $900,000 with the 49ers in free agency, speaks volumes.
14. Eagles DE Derek Barnett
The Eagles have announced that Barnett's fifth-year option will be picked up. He had a career high 6.5 sacks in 14 games last year.
15. Colts S Malik Hooker
Hooker reportedly drew trade interest from other NFL teams prior to the draft. A $6.77 million salary in 2021 is affordable, but Colts general manager Chris Ballard has given Hooker mixed reviews.
16. Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey
Humphrey should be in Baltimore for many years to come. The $14 million per year deal Marcus Peters signed at the end of the regular season to stay with the Ravens serves as the salary floor for Humphrey.
17. Redskins DL Jonathan Allen
The Redskins exercised Allen's option on Monday. Picking up the fifth year was a given considering Allen's ability to rush the pass from the interior of the defensive line.
18. Titans CB Adoree' Jackson
The Titans probably can't afford to risk losing Jackson in 2021 if his option is declined like right tackle Jack Conklin's was last year. Taking Kristian Fulton in the second round helps fill the void of Logan Ryan's expected departure in free agency, although the market for his services has developed slowly.
19. Buccaneers TE O.J. Howard
Rob Gronkowski coming out of retirement to reunite with Tom Brady prompted speculation that Howard would be traded during last week's draft. Exercising Howard's option could serve as an insurance policy in case Gronkowski's return to the NFL is brief.
20. Broncos OT Garett Bolles
Bolles hasn't made a great case for his option being exercised. He has led the NFL in holding penalties in each of his three seasons. There's no guarantee he'll remain at left tackle this season. Broncos president of football operations and general manager John Elway has indicated that Elijah Wilkerson will be competing with Bolles to protect quarterback Drew Lock's blindside.
21. Lions LB Jarrad Davis
A $10.089 million fifth year option should be reserved for a three-down linebacker. That role will probably go to free agent pick up Jamie Collins this season.
22. Falcons DE Charles Harris
Harris did not have a place on the team with the additions of Kyle Van Noy and Shaq Lawson in free agency and was traded to the Falcons for a 2021 seventh-round pick on Friday. He has 3.5 sacks in 41 career games.
23. Giants TE Evan Engram
Engram was productive last season before a foot injury cost him the final seven contests. He caught 44 passes for 467 yards with three touchdowns in eight games. It may be worth making sure Engram could be back in 2021 with the option since a healthy pass-catching tight end can be a nice security blanket for second-year quarterback Daniel Jones.
24. Texans CB Gareon Conley
The Texans gave the Raiders a 2020 third-round pick for Conley as the late October trading deadline was nearing last season. Since Conley is penciled in as a starter for this season and cornerback wasn't addressed until the fourth round of the draft with John Reid, the $10.244 million may be worth the risk.
25. Giants S Jabrill Peppers
Peppers was acquired in the trade that sent wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. to the Browns last offseason. Since the Giants insisted on Peppers' inclusion, preserving the ability to keep him around for an extra year would seem to make sense.
26. Falcons DE Takkarist McKinley
If McKinley had already become a pass-rushing force, it wouldn't have been necessary for the Falcons to sign Dante Fowler, Jr. to a three-year, $45 million deal (worth up to $48 million through base salary escalators) in free agency. Head coach Dan Quinn may have tipped the Falcons' hand at the NFL combine in late February when he said McKinley's option wouldn't be picked up. He quickly backtracked from his statement.
27. Bills CB Tre'Davious White
White's option has been picked up. The Bills should try to extend White's contract before Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who is scheduled to play on $13.703 million fifth-year option, resets the cornerback market in a major way.
28. Free agent DE Taco Charlton
Charlton was claimed on waivers early last season after the Cowboys released him. By the end of the season, Charlton was a healthy scratch, which doesn't leave any suspense about whether his option will be picked up. The Dolphins waived Charlton on Thursday.
Option: n/a (Waived)
29. Browns TE David Njoku
The Browns have picked up Njoku's option although he is more of luxury than necessity with Austin Hooper receiving big money in free agency and Harrison Bryant being selected in the fourth round of this year's draft.
30. Steelers LB T.J. Watt
Exercising Watt's option was a no-brainer after a 14.5-sack season in which he earned All-Pro honors in 2019. With 27.5 sacks in the last two seasons, the Steelers will surely lock up Watt on a long-term deal, which could exceed $20 million per year, before the end of his option year.
31. Redskins LB Reuben Foster
It would be a shock if the Redskins picked up Foster's option. He missed the 2019 season after tearing his left ACL, LCL and MCL in a non-contract drill on the first day of OTAs last year.
32. Saints OT Ryan Ramczyk
Ramczyk's option was exercised in March when Lattimore's was. Laremy Tunsil resetting the offensive tackle market with the $22 million per year deal he just received from the Texans could allow Ramcyzk to eventually leapfrog Lane Johnson, who signed a four-year extension with the Eagles averaging $18 million per year last season, on a long-term deal.