Recently I have been getting some questions on the 2012 rookie option years so I thought it made sense to get a post together on it and update it as the options gets picked up. For those unfamiliar with the rookie option system, every first round pick in the draft signs a four year contract with a team option for a fifth season. The team option must be exercised between the end of the 2014 regular season and May 3, 2015 at 4PM. The value of the option depends upon the position of the player and if the player was drafted in the top 10. Once the option is exercised it is guaranteed for injury. If the player is still on the roster on the first day of the 2016 League Year the option will be fully guaranteed. If the team fails to exercise the option the player will become a free agent in 2016.
As of April 15, three players have had their options picked up by their respective teams. The three players are Andrew Luck (Colts), Melvin Ingram (Chargers), and David DeCastro (Steelers). Luck is considered the best young QB in the NFL while DeCastro is a high level offensive lineman so both were no brainers.
Ingram has only started 12 games in his three year career and has been injury prone, so this was a bit of more of a surprise. He has flashed when healthy and considering the Chargers have limited long term depth on the team he may have benefitted from the situation. He’ll need to be productive to keep the option at its current value.
Should be Exercised
The Dolphins have geared up to make a run over the next few years so it should be inevitable that Ryan Tannehill will have his $16.155 million option exercised. You don’t want to spend all that money in free agency and have to go back into the draft for a quarterback.
Luke Kuechley is arguably the best linebacker in the NFL and it is a no-brainer that his option year will be picked up by Carolina. I’d guess he’ll be extended by the time the season begins
Stephon Gilmore is a good player and he will likely thrive in Rex Ryan’s defense in Buffalo. Given the recent contracts signed in free agency this should be an easy decision for Buffalo.
Dontari Poe is an exceptional player and falls into the JJ Watt category where he just missed out on the top 10 money. This may lead to some unhappiness for Poe in 2016, but the Chiefs will deal with that when the time comes.
It is surprising that Fletcher Cox hasn’t been extended given the Eagles usually proactive approach to contracts, but he will have his option picked up to continue to extend that negotiating window.
Michael Floyd is arguably the best receiver in Arizona so they will pick up his option. His chances for an extension might hinge on how he and the others around him play this season.
Bruce Irvin plays solid run defense and can rush the passer, bringing a very versatile element to Seattle’s exceptional defense. There would be no reason for them to pass on this.
Dre Kirkpatrick is a player that will likely have his option picked up due to the team situation. The Bengals are older at cornerback and Kirkpatrick is going to see increased time this year due to the departure of Terrance Newman.
Kendall Wright has shown an ability to be a very good receiver despite the poor player’s he has had passing him the football. With the Titans potentially improving on the QB spot in the draft it would make sense to lock Wright up for an additional season.
Chandler Jones is a dominant player for the Patriots and should be a fixture for the next five seasons. They will pick this up and work on extending him sometime thereafter.
Riley Reiff has started 31 games over the last two seasons for Detroit and graded out well per Pro Football Focus. Detroit needs to keep improving their line so keeping a young player like Reiff would be smart. They could work out an extension ahead of time as well.
Don’t’a Hightower has developed into one of the better interior linebackers in the NFL. The Patriots won’t hesitate to exercise his option, though they should make Jones a priority to extend.
Kevin Zeitler has been effective when healthy so I would imagine the Bengals will protect themselves by picking up his option.
Harrison Smith is one of the best safeties in the NFL. It’s obvious that the Vikings will pick this up unless a long term contract is worked out sooner.
Might be Exercised
Given Robert Griffin’s injury history and poor play the last two seasons I think Washington my pass on the option year and let him either earn a new contract or ride off into the sunset. Nothing prevents them from tagging him the following season if he plays great.
Over $11 million to Matt Kalil is a bit steep considering Kalil is not one of the best tackles in the NFL. This should be an easier decision that the RGIII one in Washington since this salary is top of the market salary, unlike the QB option. I think using $11 million on Kalil makes working out a reasonable contract extension much more difficult.
Mark Barron is another player I would lean toward “no” on because the cost is high and Barron doesn’t play much. The only reason I put him in this category is because they did trade for him and may have a much bigger role planned for him. They can always pull back if they need to.
I feel that the $6.14M number for Michael Brockers is a bit high since he is more of a run defender, but the Rams have spent like that before and Brockers has been a consistent starter. I would lean more towards them exercising this one.
Quinton Coples is a hard player to grasp. There are times he looks terrific and times he looks like he doesn’t care. The pass rusher market was way down for player like Coples last season so the Jets should pass on this and hope it lights a fire for free agency.
The presence of Jadeveon Clowney is something that makes me think the Texans will move on from Whitney Mercilus. Whitney is solid but not spectacular and I feel comes across as more of an afterthought at times. I’d probably lean towards them picking this up as insurance in case Clowney cant shake the injury bug.
Shouldn’t be Exercised
While there is much to be said about protecting an investment, it makes almost no sense to protect Morris Claiborne. Claiborne looks to be at best a 3rd or 4th corner and his injury potential makes it risky to consider a $11M+ option.
Shea McClellin has been essentially useless for Chicago and there is no need to pick up an additional year.
Nick Perry has only started 15 games for Green Bay and they have looked for other options due to his disappointing play. They won’t sink $7.7 million in him on a one year contract.
Doug Martin has fallen off the face of the earth and I cant see a team picking up his $5.28 million option. Even if he had a great season he would not earn that much in free agency.
Trent Richardson was traded by the Browns and later released by the Colts, which officially terminated his rookie contract. He is currently signed with the Raiders.
Justin Blackmon has spent most of his career suspended. He should have to honor his missed seasons if he is ever reinstated. Even if he did not have to honor them he would be a restricted free agent making the option far too expensive.
Brandon Weeden was released by Cleveland. He signed a low cost contract with the Cowboys.
AJ Jenkins was traded to Kansas City and later released. He is currently out of the NFL.
David Wilson retired from the NFL due to injuries.
The 2012 Rookie Option Tracker
|2||Robert Griffin III||QB||Redskins||$16,155,000||-|
|30||AJ Jenkins||WR||NA||$0|| -|