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.
20 players had their options picked up by their respective teams. The players are Andrew Luck (Colts), Robert Griffin III (Redskins), Matt Kalil (Vikings), Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins), Luke Kuechley (Panthers), Stephon Gilmore (Bills), Dontari Poe (Chiefs), Fletcher Cox (Eagles), Michael Floyd (Cardinals), Michael Brockers (Rams), Quinton Coples (Jets), Dre Kirkpatrick (Bengals), Melvin Ingram (Chargers), Kendall Wright (Titans), Chandler Jones (Patriots), Riley Reiff (Lions), David DeCastro (Steelers), Dont’a Hightower (Patriots), Kevin Zeitler (Bengals) and Harrison Smith (Vikings).
Andrew Luck is considered the best young QB in the NFL so picking up his option was the most likely event of the year.
Washington exercised the option on Robert Griffin despite the injury history. Though they could have franchised him if he had a great season the uncertainty associated with the tag process as well as the potential cost likely led to this. Expect them to cross their fingers that he stays healthy.
I wasn’t sure if the Vikings would use this on Kalil due to the $11 million price tag as I think it makes working out a reasonable long term deal more difficult. Like the RGIII move this is an investment protection.
The Dolphins had tried to sign Tannehill to a contract extension, but with no movement on that front that protected their interest with the 5th year option.
Kuechley is arguably the best linebacker in the NFL and it was a given his option would be exercised. This is a steep price for an inside linebacker but they will likely address that by working out an extension sooner rather than later.
With the recent increase in salary at the corner spot using the option for Stephon Gilmore was a logical decision.If he has a strong year under Rex Ryan his salary potential will skyrocket.
Poe just missed out on the top 10 which is a big loss in pay. He probably won’t be happy next season, but the Chiefs have plenty of time to address that after the 2015 season is over.
Fletcher Cox developed into one of the best 34 DEs in the NFL, so this made sense for Philadelphia. Cox is rumored to be involved in a possible trade package on draft day. The option year does transfer with the player in the event of a trade. If not traded I would expect an extension sometime in the summer.
Michael Floyd is arguably the best receiver in Arizona so they had no reason to decline his option. His chances for an extension might hinge on how he and the others around him play this season.
Brockers was a player I was on the fence about and I think this is more or less an insurance play by the Rams. There is little downside to picking it up so they protect themselves in the event he plays more and ups his stock for next season. If all things stay constant he likely won’t play next year at this number.
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 it is somewhat surprising that the Jets picked this up. It may mean the new staff wants to see him without a contract dangling in front of him as added motivation.
Kirkpatrick is likely to see more time this season and the Bengals cant chance losing a young player at a position where they are getting older.
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.
Wright has shown an ability to be a very good receiver despite the poor QB play. On a team with such poor offensive talent this was a must to do.
Chandler Jones is a dominant player for the Patriots and should be a fixture for the next five seasons.
Reiff has started 31 games over the last two seasons for Detroit and graded out well per Pro Football Focus. Keeping a young player on the line was a must for Detroit.
DeCastro is a Pro Bowl caliber player and a no-brainer for the Steelers to pick up.
Hightower has developed into one of the better interior linebackers in the NFL so this should have been an easy choice.
The only question that the Bengals likely had with Zeitler was the cost based on position as that can possibly make an extension a touch more difficult, but they had to protect themselves by picking this up.
Smith is one of the best safeties in the NFL. It was obvious that the Vikings would pick this up unless a long term contract has been worked out sooner.
The following players had their options declined: Morris Claiborne (cowboys), Mark Barron (Rams), Bruce Irvin (Seahawks), Shea McClellin (Bears), Nick Perry (Packers), Whitney Mercilus (Texans), and Doug Martin (Buccaneers). Each player will be a free agent in 2016. Here are some brief thoughts on the players:
While there is much to be said about protecting an investment, it made almost no sense to protect Claiborne. Claiborne looks to be at best a 3rd or 4th corner and his injury potential made it too risky to consider a $11M+ option.
The cost for Barron was far too expensive for a third wheel type of player.
Irvin not having his option picked up surprised me. I thought he was solid and there would be no reason to pss on it. This decision was likely made due to the decline in payments being made to linebackers this offseason and knowing they can save money long term by not picking it up. Its the same path I thought the Jets would have gone with Coples, but was surprised Seattle went there with Irvin.
McClellin has been essentially useless for Chicago and there is no need to pick up an additional year.
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.
I thought Mercilus’ option might have been picked up as Clowney injury protection, but again the cost was likely too high, especially in light of the declining market for mid grade rushers at the position.
Martin has fallen off the face of the earth and there is no reason to pay him more than he would earn as a free agent even if he had a terrific season.
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||YES|
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.