Options, options, options: NFL teams have them and NFL players want them.
The fifth-year option is one of the NFL’s more underrated bits of business during the offseason, with 2018 first-round picks this year looking to get locked into a fifth year with either their original team or a perhaps a team they were traded to.
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While fifth-year options are typically picked up by teams, that’s not always the case: Whether it’s a player underachieving, a team in a cap crunch or someone who has dealt with injuries, there are plenty of reasons why a team might not keep a player on their roster for a fifth season.
In 2021, there are a number of players this year who haven’t had their fifth-year options picked up for the 2022 season, with minimal surprises. For nine players, (and potentially 10), free agency comes a year earlier than maybe they would have liked, which is bittersweet.
Here’s which players had their options exercised:
NFL fifth-year option tracker
Of the 2018 NFL Draft first-rounders, nine players didn’t have their options picked up: Josh Rosen (released), Leighton Vander Esch, Billy Price, Rashaan Evans, Hayden Hurst, Rashaad Penny, Terrell Edmunds, Sony Michel and Mike Hughes.
With the fifth-year option deadline set on May 3, every player but one has a definitive answer — Jags DT Taven Bryan is the only player left wondering where he may be come the 2022 season.
(Parenthesized teams are player’s original franchise.)
What is the NFL fifth-year option?
Players who are selected in the first round of the NFL Draft sign four-year rookie contracts with a team option for a fifth year built into the pact. Teams must decide on to pick of a player’s fifth-year option following the end of the player’s third season but before May 3 of the following league year.
The option formula, which has been changed for players in the 2018 draft class due to CBA changes, takes into account prior performance, cap situation, Pro Bowl appearances, position salaries and snap count. The fifth-year option is guaranteed and also guarantees the fourth-year option base salary.
Even if a fifth-year option is not exercised, players have the opportunity to negotiate long-term extensions with their team throughout the 2021 season before hitting free agency.
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