As the NFL’s offseason quickly pivots to the negotiation of new contracts, some teams have been using a device aimed at enhancing their standing under the convoluted formula for determining compensatory draft picks.
A league source recently pointed out that the Patriots and 49ers have been using option years on the back end of player contracts. This allows the team, if/when ready to move on, to let the contract lapse without picking up the option. Absent option language, the team has to cut the player if it wants to move on.
The different is significant. If an option isn’t picked up, the player becomes a free agent and, if he signs with a new team before May 11, the departure counts toward the determination of compensatory draft picks. If the team cuts the player, the compensatory formula doesn’t apply.
Look for more teams to begin using this approach, primarily because there’s no downside to it. That said, this emerging trend underscores the reality that player contracts have value only to the extent that money is fully and completely guaranteed at signing.