Trends with 5th Year Options With 2017 Rookie Decisions Looming

           The deadline for teams to exercise 5th year options on 1st round selections in the 2017 draft is quickly approaching. As part of the new rookie wage scale introduced in the 2011 CBA, 5th year options are included in all first-round rookie contracts. A team’s window to exercise a player’s 5th year option opens after the player’s last regular season game in his 3rd season and closes in the first week of May. If a team declines to pick up the players’ option, his contract will expire the following year. If the team picks up the option, his 5th year salary becomes guaranteed for injury and becomes fully guaranteed on the first day of the league year the following year. Salaries for 5th year options are calculated in two separate buckets: Picks 1-10 and 11-32. Players selected in the top 10 have salaries equaling the transition tag amount the year the option was exercised. Option year salaries for picks 11-32 are calculated using the average of the 3rd-25th highest salaries for the respective position. The table below illustrates option salaries for the 2017 draft class. Salaries for picks 11-32 will be updated once released by the league. 

Before looking at 5th year options for the 2017 draft class, there are some interesting trends related to its usage in recent years. In looking at the 2011-2016 draft class, fifth year options were exercised 66% of the time (40/60) on players selected in the top 10. For picks 11-32, 61% (80/131) of players saw their options exercised. However, a team exercising a 5th year option does not always lead to the player getting a second contract with the team. Of the 120 players that had their options exercised, 40% (48/120) of players did not get a second deal with their original team. Part of this is due to teams being hesitant in signing players to top of the market deals. We’ve seen this scenario with Khalil Mack, Jalen Ramsey, and most recently DeForest Buckner. There are other situations where teams become overly bullish on a player. For example, the Bears opted to pick up Leonard Floyd’s 5th year option last year, when he only had 15.5 sacks in his first 3 seasons. In 2019, Floyd didn’t have the breakout season the Bears had hoped. Since Floyd was healthy, the Bears were able to release him before the start of the 2020 league year and avoided paying any of his 5th year option. There are also scenarios where a team is bearish on the player’s future performance and decide against exercising the 5th year option, but the player ends up breaking out, with Jack Conklin and Shaw Lawson being two recent examples. After the Titans and Bills declined to pick up their 5th year options last season, both players played in contract years and reaped the benefits of having their best seasons by signing big deals in free agency.

In looking at how 5th year options have been handled from a league wide perspective, the graph above illustrates the number of 1st round picks each team had between 2011-2016 and how many fifth year options were exercised. Note that the Texans, Chargers, Falcons were the only teams that exercised options on all their selections in the noted time frame while the Seahawks were the only team that did not. The Seahawks also had the fewest 1st round selections between 2011-2016 with 3.  

Without further delay, below are my thoughts on 5th year options for the 2017 draft class.

Picks 1-10

  1. Myles Garrett- After Garrett’s reinstatement in February, he and the Browns should move past the helmet swinging incident and work towards an extension. Garrett has 30 sacks in his first three season and was averaging a sack/game in 2019.
  2. Mitch Trubisky- Trading for Nick Foles makes it more unlikely that the Bears will pick up Trubisky’s option. If the Bears do exercise Trubiski’s option and he struggles early into the season, the Bears should deactivate him for the remaining games to prevent injury risk and owing $24.837M in injury guarantees.          
  3. Solomon Thomas- With the emergence of Nick Bosa and investment in Dee Ford and Arik Armstead, the 49ers will not pay the DE option value of $15M for a player who only played 41% of snaps last year.
  4. Leonard Fournette– Considering the team’s roster teardown and devaluation of RBs, I don’t see the Jaguars picking up Fournette’s 5th year option. 
  5. Corey Davis- The emergence of AJ Brown and the deep WR class this year adds to the uncertainty of a 5th year option for Davis.
  6. Jamal Adams- Speculation of Adams wanting out of New York started in 2018. However, in recent months Adams cleared the air and is expecting an extension this off-season. There’s no question the Jets will pick up his option, but will he be in New York long term or will a situation similar to Mack and Ramsey play out?
  7. Mike Williams- The Chargers have formed a solid duo at the WR position with Mike Williams and Keenan Allen.  General Manager Tom Telesco publicly praised Williams at the combine and while there hasn’t been an official decision, I would expect Williams to remain with the Chargers at least through the 2021 season. 
  8. Christian McCaffrey– McCaffrey became the fourth RB to have his option exercised since 2011 and the third to get an extension thereafter.
  9. John Ross– While 2019 was his best season, Ross has missed close to 40% of games in his first three seasons due to injury. It would be risky for the Bengals to exercise their option on Ross and I don’t expect it to happen.
  10. Patrick Mahomes– The easiest decision in the history of decisions on fifth year options.  

Picks 11-32

  1. Marshon Lattimore- The Saints picked up Lattimore’s option last month. The next step will be to negotiate an extension for the 2-time pro bowler and 2017 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. 
  2. Deshaun Watson– The Texans have their first true franchise QB and he shouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
  3. Haason Reddick- The Cardinals have tried Reddick at multiple positions and the production probably won’t be enough to warrant the salary of a 5th year option.
  4. Derek Barnett- Philly is currently 5th in league spending for defensive linemen and currently project to have the most invested towards the positional group next year. The team may prefer to have Barnett play 2020 under a contract year before making any commitments.
  5. Malik Hooker- While Hooker hasn’t forced the number of turnovers the Colts may have hoped for when drafting him, he’s been a solid player for their secondary and should remain in Indy at least until 2021.
  6. Marlon Humphrey- The Ravens will be picking up Humphrey’s fifth-year optionas he’s coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance. Locking him up long-term should be the next step.
  7. Jonathan Allen- Despite the Redskins having one of the worst defenses in the league last year, Allen’s likely done enough for the Redskins to pick up his option.
  8. Adoree’ Jackson- One of two decisions that the Titans will have to make this year on 5th year options. Unlike Corey Davis, I believe the Titans will pick up the option on Jackson.
  9. O.J. Howard- General Manager Jason Licht stated the team will likely pick up the option on Howard.
  10.  Garett Bolles- John Elway has been non-committal on Bolles’ option and stated the team will decide on whether to pick up the option after the draft. Furthermore, Elway isn’t afraid to admit draft mistakes as they’ve declined 5th year options 3 out of 5 times. It seems as if Bolles will make it 4 out of 6.
  11. Jarrad Davis- Davis played in 57% of snaps last season and was graded 94th out of 99 on PFF. The Lions will probably let Davis head into 2020 as his contract year.
  12. Charles Harris- Harris has only had 3.5 sacks in his first three seasons and was a healthy scratch twice last year. The Dolphins won’t be exercising his option.
  13. Evan Engram- Giants General Manager David Gettleman has yet to exercise 5th year options on the first rounders he inherited after joining the Giants in late 2017. However, things could change this year. Gettleman recently included Engram as part of the roster’s “good young players.”
  14. Gareon Conley– The Texans traded a 3rd round pick for Conley last season and while Bill O’Brien has praised Conley’s play, his production probably won’t align with the value of the 5th year option.
  15.  Jabrill Peppers- Giants General Manager David Gettleman also included Jabrill Peppers as one of the roster’s “good young players.” Furthermore, Peppers was acquired in a trade by Gettleman which can only help the case for his option to be exercised.  
  16. Takkarist McKinley- The Falcons announced they will not be picking up McKinley’s fifth-year option. This marks the first time they’ve decided to not pick up a player’s fifth-year option.
  17. Tre’Davious White- White is number one on general manger Brandon Beane’s list of extensions to get done.
  18. Taco Charlton– It’s likely Taco will not see his option picked up by the Dolphins given his limited playtime last season and the team’s signing of Shaq Lawson and Emanuel Ogbah.
  19. David Njoku- New general manager Andrew Berry hinted at the Browns picking up Njoku’s option. New HC Kevin Stefanski is know for his two tight end sets and Njoku is expected to have a prominent role on the Browns offense.
  20. T.J. Watt– A no-brainer and will eventually become the highest or one of the highest paid edge rushers. 
  21. Reuben Foster– The 49ers waived Foster in 2018 and the Redskins claimed him so his rookie contract never expired and is eligible for a fifth year option. However, coming off a major knee injury makes it unlikely that the team would exercise an option that is guaranteed for injury.
  22.  Ryan Ramcyk- Last month, Ramcyk became the first player ever selected last in the first round to get his option picked up.