Fifth-year options for 2011 first-round picks likely won’t be exercised before May 3


The conclusion of the 2013 regular season introduced a new dynamic to the NFL.  For the first time, teams have to decide whether to exercise the fifth-year option for players drafted three years ago in round one.

The rookie wage scale, adopted in 2011, requires all draft picks to sign four-year contracts.  For first-round picks, a fifth-year option can be applied by the team.

The window for exercising the option opens after the player’s third regular season ends, and it continues through May 3.  As one league source recently explained it, teams would be foolish to exercise the option before May 3.

They’d be foolish to do it because the amount of the fifth-year salary becomes immediately guaranteed for injury once the option is exercised.  Thus, if a team exercises the option now and the player suffers a serious injury during any postseason games or offseason workouts before May 3, the team would be on the hook for the money in the event the injury ends the player’s career or keeps him out of action for two seasons.

For players taken in the top 10, the fifth-year option equals the transition tender for the player’s position in the fourth year of his contract.  (The transition tender is based on the average of the 10 highest-paid players at the position.)  For players taken from No. 11 through No. 32, the option arises from the average of the 25 highest-paid players at the position, with the top three excluded.

Absent new contracts before May 3, the option will be applied to players like Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, perhaps (No.2), Broncos linebacker Von Miller (No. 3), Bengals receiver A.J. Green (No. 4), Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (No. 5), Falcons receiver Julio Jones (No. 7), and Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith (No. 9).

The Titans likely won’t exercise the option for quarterback Jake Locker (No. 8), and the Jaguars likely won’t do it for quarterback Blaine Gabbert (No. 10).

We’ll be hearing plenty about the fifth-year option in the coming weeks.  But if any team opts to apply the option before May 3, they’re taking an avoidable risk that they’ll eventually pay the money and get nothing in return.

9 responses to “Fifth-year options for 2011 first-round picks likely won’t be exercised before May 3

  1. this whole new rookie deal is as horrible for the players as the old deal was for the owners…. the owners just destroyed the players on the current labor deal.
    Add to that they cannot even renegotiate their deals until after 3 years … upper deck home run for the owners. Guys that were ridiculously underdrafted like richard sherman zac stacy or russell wilson are getting flat out pay raped .
    They should have insisted on some type of performance based bonus or guaranteed raise if you out perform your draft position . It is not the players fault that the talent evaluations were blindingly incompetent.

  2. Julio Jones went #6 to Atlanta. #7 was Aldon Smith to SanFran. Smith should also be among those listed as having performed well enough to have earned 5th year extension, but his recent arrest history may throw a monkey wrench into that plan.

  3. I think Julio Jones is a perfect example of a player to watch. Hopefully that foot injury doesn’t linger any longer than it already has. I know the Falcons are keeping a close eye.

  4. so many years of the players getting the advantage now the shoe is on the other foot but to be fair these guys are not getting paid table scraps it just looks that way when compared to other football players who have been in the league longer. and the fifth year option only applies to the 32 first rounders.

  5. A few players got the advantage that was also oftentimes the result of horrible talent evaluation but hey if someone offers you 78 million guaranteed you take the cash even if you know you suck or don’t love the game
    I cannot believe the amount of people that root for the owners in these contract related issues . Really you hope the guys that count their stacks of money for a living get the best of the deal with the players that bust their tails to provide us entertainment by risking all sorts of injuries and long term health impairment. Whilst the owners biggest risk is selling 65,00 Tix vs. 75 ,000 or the TV networks check arriving a day too late.
    What do you guys do for fun after football season good to vegas and root for the dealer in blackjack ….. is it jealously or stupidity that has you taking the billionaires side over the guys that actually play the sport.

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