Players From 2012 NFL Draft Who Should Be Extended

Under the NFL’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, drafted players are eligible for contract extensions following their 3rd accrued season. Teams still control the rights of former 1st round picks for 2 additional seasons, as they have the choice to pick up a 5th year team option. For players picked 1-10, their option year is equivalent to the transition tag for their position. Players picked 11-32 receive the average salary of players ranked 3rd-25th at their position.

Players drafted outside of the 1st round have one year remaining on their contracts once they are eligible for extensions. These players may be more eager to sign extensions as well, since by their 4th year, the talented mid-round draft picks are very undervalued. This is why half of the players from the 2011 draft class who were extended last off-season were drafted in rounds 2-7.

Last off-season, the 2011 draft class was the first under the new CBA to be eligible for new deals. While extensions were expected, only eight players received new contracts, two of them franchise quarterbacks. Only Patrick Peterson, Tyron Smith, JJ Watt, Robert Quinn, Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton, Richard Sherman, and Jason Kelce were extended.

Many of the talented players from the 2011 draft are entering the final year of their contract without an extension. These players include Pro Bowlers Cam Newton, Von Miller, AJ Green, Marcell Dareus, and Julio Jones. It’s highly unlikely however, that any of their teams allow them to hit the open market in 2016.

The 2012 draft wasn’t as talented as 2011, but is still filled with plenty of talent. Two of the best players, Andrew Luck and Luke Kuehcly, however, may not be extended this off-season. The Indianapolis Colts still control the rights to Luck for two more seasons, and are in no hurry to make their franchise QB one of the richest in the NFL. The Colts have even gone on record saying they are in no rush on a new contract. The Carolina Panthers still haven’t agreed to a new contract with Cam Newton yet as he enters the final year of his contract. It’s likely that the Colts and Luck’s representatives are waiting to see how Newton’s negotiations pan out. It also remains unlikely that the Panthers extend Kuechly before Newton. They have Kuechly under contract for an additional season, and will prioritize the QB position before ILB.

Besides Luck and Kuechly, there are plenty of players deserving of new contracts this off-season. However, some players may be out of luck. Nobody at their position from the 2011 class signed an extension, or their team has other priorities. Their teams may also decide to be patient, and withhold from extending them. Here are three Pro Bowl caliber players who are deserving of new contracts, and could likely be rewarded.

1. Lavonte David. Outside Linebacker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Since he was drafted by Tampa Bay in the 2nd round in 2012, Lavonte David has been one of the most underrated defensive players in the NFL. He was First-Team All Pro in 2013 despite not making the Pro Bowl, and has made at least 139 tackles each season.

David has fallen under the radar due to the recent poor performance of the Buccaneers. They haven’t made the playoffs since he was drafted by the team, but David was been one of few bright spots. David is scheduled to earn just $863,418 this season, at a cap number of $1,404,642.

Despite being big spenders in free agency the past couple seasons, the Buccaneers have plenty of salary cap flexibility moving forward. They also have their best players on long-term contracts or in the middle of their rookie deals. It seems very likely the Buccaneers will draft Jameis Winston 1st overall, giving them the luxury of a franchise QB in the first-year of his rookie deal. All these factors make it likely that the Buccaneers lock up their star young linebacker.

2. Alfred Morris. Running Back, Washington Redskins

This off-season has proved that teams still value the running back position. Running backs were compensated higher than expected in free agency, and Alfred Morris should cash in.

If Morris were a free agent, he would have been the 2nd highest valued running back to DeMarco Murray. Running backs Frank Gore, Mark Ingram, CJ Spiller, and Shane Vereen are all averaging at least $4 million per year in their new contracts. Gore will be 32 years old at the start of the season, Ingram and Spiller haven’t consistently stayed healthy, and Vereen hasn’t been an every down back. Morris is just 26 years old, and has been a workhorse back for the Redskins since his rookie season.

In a free agency filled with talent, the Redskins decided not to overspend like they usually do. They were conservative, which is smart considering how little their previous free agency splashes paid off. Morris has far exceeded the expectations of his draft selection in the 6th round three years ago, and should be rewarded with a new contract. Signing Morris to an extension would allow the Redskins to use the franchise tag on Ryan Kerrigan next-offseason, if they wish. Franchising Morris wouldn’t be as beneficial because they could re-sign him to a smaller salary, since pass rushers are more valued.

3. Russell Wilson. Quarterback, Seattle Seahawks

It will be very interesting to see how negotiations play out between Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks this off-season. Wilson has obviously outplayed his draft selection, and will be rewarded by the Seahawks eventually. These negotiations will be tricky however, since Wilson deserves to be paid like an upper echelon quarterback, but the Seahawks want to maintain flexibility to keep their core.

There have been talks about Wilson considering a discount. Rumors have also stated that there is the possibility of a fully guaranteed contract. A contract fully guaranteed would most likely be in exchange for Wilson accepting a lower signing bonus or average per year salary to minimize his cap hits.

It seems unlikely that the Seahawks would let Wilson play out the final year of his contract without an extension. It wouldn’t be fair to Wilson after they extended Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Richard Sherman. The Seahawks need to address Wilson’s contract situation quickly. Then, they can move on to inside linebacker Bobby Wagner’s contract. Extending Wilson now will certainly be cheaper then at the conclusion at his contract, and there is no chance the Seahawks let him come close to the open market.

  • Kirk Vollmer

    I’m not sure that Murray would have value over Morris. Morris has played for 3 years and cleared 1000 yards all 3 years. Murray has played 4 years and cleared 1000 yards only 2 of those years. Morris has in the last 2 years not had a QB who can take the pressure off him in RG3. Murray on the other hand plays with Romo who for all the criticism he gets is still statistically a good quarterback. For me personally, all else being equal I’d rather have Morris and think he would be more valuable. However I do admit the NFL might not agree with me as there seems to be a huge premium on leading the league in rushing for last year.

    • I like Morris but I think there are two things that work against. In terms of on field stuff I think Morris doesnt have the value as a receiver that teams like. Maybe that changes but right now hes a two down back compared to some others looked on as three downs.

      The other is simply perception. Washington has been a non-factor in two of Morris’ three years and they win and lose because of the QB spot. I think Murray got a great deal of credit for what went on in Dallas this year. McCoy was considered a difference maker in two seasons. Lynch is considered a difference maker as is Jamaal Charles. I think Morris is missing that because his team isnt going anywhere. In terms of talent I think hes terrific, but sometimes you need more than that and he doesnt have it now. He has a great deal to gain by having a 1,300 type yard year on a contending team. Hed definitely get into that upper class if he did.

    • Cant FixStupid

      Injuries have kept Murray from being a 1,000 yard back in his 4 years. As a rookie Murray didn’t get to start until like week 8 or something and shredded in his 1st start. He averaged 5.5 ypc as a rookie. He easily goes over 1,000 if he started more games. His 2nd year he missed 6 games, otherwise he goes over 1,000 then too. Then year 3 he averaged 5.2 ypc, missed 2 games. His 1st 3 years he didn’t even go over 217 carries at all, didn’t even have 164 carries in his 1st 2 years. He’s missed almost a full season worth of games in his 4 year career. Numbers don’t tell the entire story. I like Morris, he’s a good reliable back, but Murray is the better back. And i’m not a Cowboys or Eagles fan, or a big Demarco Murray fan. Murray is just a complete 3 down back. He’s strong in pass protection. Solid receiver out the backfield. Just watching the 2 play, Murray is the better looking of the 2 and arguably one of the 5 best RBs in the NFL. And saying Murray is the better of the 2 is no knock on Morris.

  • eddiea

    I thought if a team didn’t place 5th yr option, on 1st rndr, their contract reverted to a 4 yr one. Am I wrong? If not, why hasn’t Indy done that with Luck and Panthers Kuechly?

    • Brian Blewis

      You are right. That’s why Mark Ingram and Nick Fairley for instance were free agents. But I’m pretty sure teams have until May 3rd to exercise the options. Indy and Carolina will obviously exercise the options on Luck and Kuechly at some point before the deadline.

  • NW86

    These 3 contracts will probably happen, along with some others, later in the summer. The more immediate article that I’m looking forward to is how much it will cost teams to exercise the options of the 32 first rounders, and which of them should be exercised over the next month?

    • Brian Blewis

      We will have a much better idea about which teams will exercise their options after the draft.

  • Ghoston

    I think with the salary cap rising the next few years this will be a cat and mouse game between the players and teams. The 89% spending limit will just rise every year.