By: Max Carroll
It wasn’t until 2011 that the NFL and NFLPA agreed on instituting a 5th year option for any rookie selected in the first round. Since then, teams have not only had to decide if the player selected would be the right pick, but the added pressure of whether or not to trade into the first round to get that team-option. This agreement adds a layer to the draft that we as fans already love.
The 5th year option window post-2019 season was filled with some huge names. Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, and Lenoard Fournette were all on the list. This decision comes with some big salary implications. The rookie 5th year option is the same as a transition tender. Here is the breakdown…
Picks 1-10- Average salary of top-10 highest paid at position
Picks 11-32- Average salary of top-25 highest paid at position
For example, in the case of a player like Patrick Mahomes, that’s a hefty $24.8 million price tag. Well worth it after winning a Super Bowl. Keep in mind, the decision must be made prior to their 4th NFL season. Let’s take a look at some notables from this past window, as well as a look ahead to decisions to be made in 2021.
EXERCISED (Salaries for 2021)
Patrick Mahomes- $24.8 million
This was a no brainer if I’d ever seen one. Mahomes won an MVP Award in 2018, as season in which he threw 50 TDs, and followed that up with a Super Bowl victory this past year. Although the 5th year option was exercised, I fully expect the Chiefs to lock him in long term after this year. He will be the highest paid QB in the game.
Myles Garrett- $15.2 million
The #1 overall pick in 2017 has lived up to the hype thus far with 30.5 sacks in three years. This is even more impressive due to the fact he missed 6 games last year after trying to kill Mason Rudolph. The Browns are hoping to get a long term deal done, but leave it to them to screw it up somehow.
Marshon Lattimore- $10.2 million
Unfortunately for Lattimore, he was taken just outside the top-10 picks at #11. Since coming into the league he has turned the Saints defense around (Saints were a bottom 5 defense all three years prior). His salary for that 5th year will be a bargain for a top corner.
Deshaun Watson- $17.2 million
Deshaun Watson should get two salaries. One, for being a top QB in the NFL and the other for saving Bill O’Brien’s job on multiple occasions. The 12th overall pick in 2017 will be playing for a bargain salary in 2021. The trade of Hopkins left him miffed, but Watson should be a Texan for years to come.
TJ Watt- $10.1 million
Talk about a bargain. All-Pro honors and 14.5 sacks in 2019, all for the low cost of $10.1 million to add on a 5th year. He has proven to be one of the best players drafted in 2017 and wasn’t taken until 30th overall. Draft picks like this are why the Steelers have been a competitive franchise for so long.
After Trubisky’s sophomore campaign, many thought he was on his way to being justified as the #2 pick. His regression in year three forced the Bears to trade for Nick Foles and decline Trubisky’s option. In an offense that doesn’t ask him to do much, he threw only 17 TDs along with 10 INTs. Not good enough.
The Jags showed their hand when they tried to trade him before the 2019 season. Despite the trade attempts, Fournette was 6th in the league last year in scrimmage yards and had 76 receptions, showing his dual threat ability. This goes to show the current valuation of RBs in the NFL.
John Ross III
What a bust. He was taken 9th overall and out of the 48 potential games only played 24. His career stats include 49 receptions for 716 yards and 10 TDs. Not bad stats for one season, but this is over three years. Don’t expect much from him in 2020 if he can’t even stay on the field.
Charles Harris/Takkarist McKinley
Lump these two together because they were both taken by the Falcons. Not a good 2017 draft. Charles Harris at 22 overall has been a non-factor, with only 3.5 sacks in 41 career games. McKinley has fared better with 16.5 sacks over that same three year span, but the Falcons brought in Dante Fowler on a big deal. To make matters worse they traded up to get him. Dan Quinn’s attempt to build a defense around speed has failed miserably since their trip to the Super Bowl.
NOTABLES ENTERING 3rd SEASON (5th year option decision in 2021)
This was a situation where the Ravens traded back into the first round to select Jackson at 32nd overall. This allows them to get Jackson for that 5th year at a premium, as he was not a top-10 pick. Coming off an MVP year in which he set the NFL on fire, exercising him after the 2020 season should be a no-brainer. The concern you have is his playoff performance. 29 total points and a 0-2 record leaves a lot to be desired. It’ll be tough to replicate last season’s success, but barring an injury, there’s really no reason why he can’t.
Mayfield will need to have a big year to make the Browns’ front office comfortable in exercising his option. He regressed from his rookie to sophomore year, throwing only 22 TDs and 21 INTs despite having a loaded offense. Blame it on coaching all you want, but Mayfield has now thrown 35 INTs and fumbled 13 times (losing 5) in two seasons. This isn’t Jameis Winston territory, but it’s getting pretty close. If he has another down year and the Browns are again mediocre, look for the Browns to begin the moving-on process.
Similar to Marshon Lattimore, Fitzpatrick was taken 11th overall and therefore will receive a discounted 5th year rate. When he was first acquired by the Steelers last year for a first-round pick, I’ll admit I thought they got fleeced, and I don’t think I was alone. Fitzpatrick quickly showed the talent that many saw coming out of college. He had 5 interceptions in 14 games with Pittsburgh. The Steelers will exercise that 5th year option.
As a Giants fan, I am interested to see how they go about making this decision. There is no question that Barkley is a top NFL talent at his position, but that doesn’t seem to make a big difference at the RB position. We saw Fournette have an impressive 2019 and his option was declined. Barkley’s salary for that 5th year would be somewhere around the $9-$10 million mark. We just don’t see RBs get money like this anymore (with the exception of McCaffrey and Elliott). We saw how big money deals worked out for Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson. 2020 will be a telling year.