As previously explained, the proposed CBA will make life better for first-round picks forced to play under a fifth-year option. If they earn it.
Per a league source, the new labor deal would wipe out the current formula for determining the amount of the fifth-year option, replacing it with a formula premised on performance or playing time.
Under the revised approach, which would apply to the 2018 draft class, a player’s position would take precedence over draft slot. For any player who qualifies for two Pro Bowls in his first three years, the fifth-year option becomes the franchise tag amount. For any player who qualifies for one Pro Bowl, the fifth-year option becomes the transition tag amount.
For a player who has 75 percent cumulative playing time or who reaches the 75-percent threshold in two of three seasons, or for a player who has at least 50 percent playing time in all three years, the fifth-year salary becomes the average of the third- through 20th-highest-paid players at his position.
For all other players, the fifth-year option becomes the average of the third- through 25th-highest-paid players at his position.
While this new formula helps players who play and/or play well, it makes it cheaper to squat on a top-10 player who for whatever reason doesn’t play much and/or who doesn’t play well. This device could become particularly useful for teams who draft quarterbacks in the top 10 and decide to squat on them for multiple years.
If the top-10 player doesn’t play, his fifth-year salary no longer will be the fourth-year transition tender at his position but the number currently applicable to players drafted from No. 11 through No. 32: The average of the third- through 25th-highest-paid players at the position.
Thus, for purposes of the option, draft slot becomes meaningless. Playing time or performance would be the only thing that would alter the number paid to players in their fifth years.
And for quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, none of it matters; they arrived a year too early. For guys like Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, and Sam Darnold, they were right on time.
For Jackson particularly, it means that the last pick in round one of the 2018 draft is on track to be eligible for a salary equivalent to the franchise tag in his fifth year.