According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, the Houston Texans have extended the contract of LB Whitney Mercilus for another four years.
Whitney Mercilus’ four-year extension (2016-2019) is $26 million, including $10.8 guaranteed.He gets a $5.25 million signing bonus.
— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) May 4, 2015
Mercilus was eligible to have an option year picked up for the 2016 season, which the Texans quietly declined and clearly we now know why. This is a good example of why teams will decline the option of players whose option value exceeds what the player would likely be worth on the open market. Once a team picks up an option at a certain value it can become a baseline negotiating point for a player. Mercilus’s option would have been worth $7.751 million, while his new contract will average $6.5 million per year. Had his option been exercised it would have been more difficult to come to an agreement on a contract at this figure.
There were a few players who I felt fit into this category this year. Those players were Quinton Coples of the Jets, Bruce Irvin of the Seahawks, and Matt Kalil of the Vikings. Of the three Irvin was the only one not exercised. The other two will argue that the team viewed them at a certain salary level if they attempt to extend them this year to more team favorable terms. Colples and Irvin would most like trend in the “unproven” rusher category which basically averaged $6.5 million a year or less this offseason, identical to what Mercilus received. Kalil’s number is so high he would be one of the top 3 tackles at that price.
The Saints used the “non-option” strategy with Mark Ingram last season and it worked out well for them. Ingram still re-signed in 2015 and is on a more team friendly deal than if they would have taken the higher priced option year. Of course you run the risk of losing the player, but for many teams this is probably a risk worth taking.
With a $10.8 million guarantee I would venture that Mercilus will earn more over the next two seasons than he would have under the option ($1.4 million this year plus $7.75 million next) so there is a big benefit for him as well, but the Texans will get the terms and cap structure they want over the next four seasons.