The fifth-year option is a powerful tool, and teams with 2015 first-round picks who panned out are using it, extensively.
Of the 2015 first-rounders whose fifth-year options were exercised, only one of them — Rams running back Todd Gurley — has gotten a second contract.
All of the others who had their fifth-year options picked up (from Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston to Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota to Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper to Washington guard Brandon Scherff to Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams to Falcons EDGE rusher Vic Beasley to Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes to Saints offensive lineman Andrus Peat to Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker to Chargers running back Melvin Gordon to 49ers defensive lineman Arik Armstead to Rams cornerback Marcus Peters to Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor to Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree to Cardinals offensive lineman D.J. Humphries to Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson to Cowboys defensive back Byron Jones to Browns defensive back Damarious Randall) continue to wait for long-term contracts.
It wasn’t supposed to be that way. The league adopted a true rookie wage scale in 2011 in order to prevent busts from sucking millions out of the system. Players who end up earning the big contracts they no longer get are supposed to get them, once they become eligible, after three NFL seasons.
The Rams gave Gurley his long-term contract a year ago, and they probably regret it, given the current condition of his knee. The rest of the first-rounders from 2015 whose options were picked up will have to carry the injury risk for another season, and then either hit the open market or deal with the franchise tag.
One of them — Chargers running back Melvin Gordon — openly has vowed to hold out from training camp unless he gets a new contract. Although players operating under the terms of a fifth-year option face dramatically lower daily fines for skipping camp ($30,000 instead of $40,000), the CBA makes the fine for skipping a preseason game the equivalent of a regular-season game check.
It thus will be interesting to see whether any of these 2015 first-rounders other than Gordon decide not to show up for training camp. Last year, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and then-Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack, both entering their option years, held out through the preseason — and they ended up being the two highest-paid defensive players in league history when all was said and done.