As the NFL and the NFL Players Association try to hammer out a new labor deal, the fifth-year option needs to be ironed out.
All draft picks sign four-year contracts. For first-round picks, a fifth-year option is available. The formula is tied to position, with players in the top 10 getting a more favorable calculation.
But why should it be tied to the position a player plays? The base four-year contract is tied to draft slot not position. Basing the fifth-year option on the position the player plays will, for some positions, result in the player making less.
Especially players who play running back. Especially Ezekiel Elliott.
Consider this: The fifth-year option for Elliott, taken fourth in the 2016 draft, is nearly $5.3 million lower than the fifth-year option given to 49ers defensive end DeForest Buckner, who was taken three spots after Elliott. Elliott gets less in year five than even the 11th pick in the draft, Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.
As it stands, Elliott will make $3.853 million this year and $9.099 million in 2020. If that number were closer to $20 million, currently guaranteed for injury, would he be holding out? Maybe not.
Either way, it makes little sense to tie the option to position played. It benefits quarterbacks, and it hurts running backs. And maybe that’s one of the reasons why there’s an effort to peel running backs away from the NFL Players Association and to create their own bargaining unit.