The guy that bet me each team will exercise the fifth-year option on every 2011 first-round pick owes me 2014 season tickets on the 50 yard line.
Contrary to the widespread belief that teams will keep their options open on first-round picks from the first year of the rookie wage scale by exercising the new fifth-year option, the Lions have said they won’t exercise that right regarding defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
Via Tim Twentyman of the team’s official website, G.M. Martin Mayhew said the team wants Fairley to be motivated in 2014.
“He’s a phenomenal talent,” Mayhew said. “This guy can be whatever he wants to be. That’s probably why I’m on him so hard. . . . It’s an opportunity for him to go out and perform his best this offseason, perform his best during the season and hopefully it helps him become the best player he can possibly be. . . . [The option] is $5.5 million dollars and I have to ask myself is he a $5.5 million player? There’s some performances where he is. There’s some performances where he’s not.”
The same effect could be created by exercising the option and telling Fairley that, unless he earns the option year in 2014, he’ll be cut. Exercising the option, however, limits his financial ceiling for 2015. Giving him a shot at the open market doesn’t.
Then again, it’s not as if Fairley will hit the open market if he has a huge year. The Lions then would then use the franchise tag, which was $9.654 million in 2014.
It’s a gamble of more than $4 million for the Lions, but if Fairley plays extremely well in 2014 it will have been worth it.
The more important question is whether that added motivation will disappear once Fairley gets a huge-money deal, like it did with Albert Haynesworth. If the Lions currently believe Fairley needs to be chasing a huge contract in order to play to the best of his abilities, their biggest mistake ultimately could be to give him one.