First Round Option Decisions

The option deadline is fast approaching for the 2015 draft picks so let’s take a look back at the first round picks and how they are faring thus far in their NFL careers and what option decisions may happen if they havent been exercised already.

1.Jameis Winston- The Bucs have picked up Winston’s $20.922 million option which is no surprise given the premium paid for the position. Winston hasn’t yet established himself as one of the better QBs in the NFL but he has established himself as a starter. Last year he was hurt by injuries but had looked poised to take that next step in 2016.  Given that 2018 is his last “cheap” season under contract it is not a surprise that Tampa was so aggressive this offseason to make the most of it. A decent year and Winston is likely looking at a $28 million a year contract and his floor should be a few million above the $21 million option given the market.

2. Marcus Mariota- The Titans exercised Mariota’s option last week, which is the same as Winston’s ($20.922 million). Mariota’s team has been more successful by a small margin compared to Winston though Winston looks to have the far bigger upside of the two. Mariota has been up and down with injuries but it was also not a surprise to see his option exercised.  Barring a great season Mariota should not reset the QB market the way Winston might and really he trends more with the lower echelon highly paid veterans than the prolific passers. His draft status could earn him more but the option value may end up being a fair market value for his long term contract.

3. Dante Fowler- The Jaguars are still deciding on Fowler and his $14.2 million option. Fowler missed his rookie season with injury and only has 1 start in two seasons. Fowler did have 8 sacks last season but $14.2 million seems like a steep price for a 45% playtime guy. Based on how much he plays and his current production his long term upside right now is probably between $10 and $12 million. With the Jaguars facing some salary cap concerns next year I’d lean towards them declining the option.

4. Amari Cooper- Cooper struggled last season, but at just 24 years of age and having two 1,000 yard seasons there was no way that the Raiders could decline his $13.924 million option, which they exercised already. In light of the Sammy Watkins contract, Cooper has to be eyeing at least $17 million a season when extended so there is value n this option for Oakland. He’ll get his chance to have the offense run through him this season.

5. Brandon Scherff- Scherff’s option was one of the first exercised this offseason. He is one of the top guards in the NFL and the position is getting more expensive by the season. His option is worth $12.525 million. He should look to earn $13.5 million on an extension.

6. Leonard Williams- The Jets made it official about two weeks ago when they exercised the $14.2 million option on Williams. Williams is a solid all around player who plays about 80% of the snaps, which is a pretty solid number for a lineman. Williams only has 12 career sacks but given the Jets lack of homegrown talent and cap room, he should look to earn more than the $17.2 million a year the team was willing to spend on Muhammad Wilkerson.

7. Kevin White- Is it fair to call someone who is always injured a bust? White has only played in 5 games in three seasons and with the options being injury guaranteed there is zero chance the Bears use it here. White right now looks like a reclamation project.

8. Vic Beasley- Beasley is the most productive rusher from this group with 24.5 sacks in three years though the Falcons are still tinkering with where to play him. The Falcons exercised this option in late February. With a contract year that should run between $12.8 and $14.2M this should make a nice baseline to negotiate an extension off of. If Beasley has another good season Id expect him to earn $16 million a year on an extension.

9. Ereck Flowers- While we can debate about calling White a bust, there is little debate on Flowers. It would be stunning if the Giants picked up his $12.525 million option tomorrow. Flowers probably needs a change of scenery and a move back to right tackle. In any event the option is too high to justify using.

10. Todd Gurley- The Rams picked up Gurley’s $9.63 million option. Gurley was a dominant offensive force last year and arguably the best back in the NFL. Only Le’Veon Bell saw more snaps than Gurley last season as he is a complete player. The market for running backs is low so a Gurley extension could run anywhere from $10 million to right around Bell’s contract if Bell is extended.

11. Trae Waynes- Minnesota picked up his $9.069 million option on Monday. Waynes entrenched himself as a starter last year on a dominant defense. I’d imagine he is hoping to line himself up for a $13.5-$14.5 million contract down the line.

12. Danny Shelton- Shelton’s option should cost just over $7 million which isn’t expensive but is probably above his market value which may be closer to $5 million. DT’s simply haven’t found big contracts in free agency unless they are dominant, which he isn’t. The Patriots likely don’t risk much by not exercising the option and keep him in the comp equation by passing on it.

13. Andrus Peat- The Saints picked up his option weeks ago. He’ll be under contract for $9.625 million in 2019 if he plays on the option. He should earn $12M a year if extended.

14. DeVante Parker- Parker had his $9.387 million option exercised by the Dolphins. Given what the team recently paid for Albert Wilson and Danny Woodhead it is understandable that they picked this up. More likely they are expecting his numbers to soar now that Jarvis Landry is gone. If they don’t he isn’t worth the option number.

15. Melvin Gordon- At $5.6M, this was an easy decision for the Chargers. Gordon doesn’t blow people away the way Gurley does but he can handle a decent workload and has a few big plays. Though the 49ers made the RB market a little nutty this year Id think the Chargers could extend him for $7M or so and it makes sense to do so sooner rather than later if they see a long term future for him.

16. Kevin Johnson- The Texans picked up this $9.069 million option on Monday which was a surprise to me. I have to think that this was more of an insurance policy against a good year where he could wind up making over $13 million a season than a real indication of what they think he is worth. Johnson played in less than 60% of the teams snaps last year and has struggled with injuries missing 14 games in the last two years which makes this a risky pickup in my estimation.

17. Arik Armstead- Much like with Johnson, this pickup has more to do with positional premiums than anything else. Risking slightly more than $9 million on someone who has played just 14 games in the last two years is very risky. I understand why the 49ers picked it up but he needs to play much better to justify it. Given the way the 49ers do extensions they may have been better off trying to come up with a short term extension than picking this up.

18. Marcus Peters- The Rams picking up this $9.069 million option was one of the no-brainer decisions. Peters can be absolutely electric at times and has an opportunity to be the highest paid corner in the NFL at $15M a season if he continues to make plays on the ball.

19. Cameron Erving- Erving hasn’t proven capable of being a starter and is more likely competing for a starting job. Those players are worth around $4 million or less a season, not $9 million. Would be a surprise to see this one picked up.

20. Nelson Agholar- The Eagles picked this one up on Monday to the tune of $9.387 million. Through his first two seasons Agholar looked like a failure but turned things around last season with a 770 yard season. Though the Eagles have been generous with some contracts, right now this option is probably close to his upside value. That said I don’t think the Eagles could justify passing on it and he has a reasonable chance to outperform this number next season and line himself up for an $11-$12M extension.

21. Cedric Ogbuehi- I’m not sure any team in the NFL would pick up this option, but it’s the Bengals and they don’t give up on guys the way other teams do. The team made a move to bring in another left tackle and I have no idea where, or if, he will even play this year. They can probably keep him for much cheaper after the season, especially if he sits.

22. Bud Dupree- The Steelers are another team that generally gives their players every opportunity and with Dupree establishing himself as a starter and notching a career high in sacks it should have been a given they would exercise his $9.232 million option. He could be worth a few million more than this if he continues to produce.

23. Shane Ray- Given that Ray only played in 8 games last season and the fact that the Broncos got younger at rusher in the draft I would think that this signaled that the team will not pick up Ray’s $9.2 million option. There are a wide range of outcomes for where he could land as a free agent but Id think more than half of them are under $9.2M a year.

24. DJ Humphries- The Cardinals already exercised the $9.625 million option. His position is expensive and little separates the players at the position contractually. If he starts 16 games he is looking at over $11M a year and the cardinals are rebuilding their line which made this an easier call.

25. Shaq Thompson- This was picked up by Carolina at a rate of $9.232 million. Is he worth it? Im not sure. Numbers went up this year for the traditional linebackers and his role should expand this year.

26. Breshad Perriman- While 1st round picks always have salary upside, 576 yards in three years isn’t going to cut it. Ravens have shown zero faith in him after his first year injuries and have constantly signed outside older players to replace him. This would be a stunner.

27. Byron Jones- Dallas picked this up last week. As a safety I think this was easy to justify even as safeties struggled this year to earn contracts. If he makes the move to corner he probably needs to play at a pretty high level to actually keep the contract.

28. Laken Tomlinson- Given that he is not worth $9.6M a year currently I would say no, but they did pick up Armstead’s and I don’t see him as a much better value. I guess it depends on if the 49ers think they have viable competition for the job. If they do don’t expect them to pick it up.

29. Phillip Dorsett- Given that I didn’t think that the Patriots would pick up Shelton’s option there should be no way they pick this one up. Dorsett didn’t even have 200 yards last year and its hard to imagine his upside right now going beyond the option value even if he had a miracle season.

30. Damarious Randall- The team picked up this one already and given their cap room and roster deficiencies its understandable why they did it. They need to get a look at a player who has never played with them and can take on that risk of injury to do so.

31. Stephone Anthony- Anthony barely saw the field last season after his trade to Miami. There is no way Miami can justify picking up an option that will cost over $9 million.

32. Malcom Brown- A solid rotational player and probably figures into the teams long term plans. I have the same question here I have with Shelton in terms of the market potentially not being there for a player like Brown if he was a free agent. Not picking it up can be beneficial to a better long term deal or comp pick. That said if the Patriots see him as a long term fixture or a tradeable commodity they will pick it up.

Questions about this article? Reach Jason Fitzgerald on Twitter at @jason_otc