Fifth-year option projections for every first-round player in the 2018 draft class

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Doug Farrar
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After free agency, and just after the NFL draft closes up shop on May 1, there’s one more way teams can solidify their rosters: The decision to exercise the fifth-year option on first-round draft picks from four years before. The decisions have to be made before May 3, and if the team declines the option on the player, that player becomes a free agent a year earlier, unless a longer-term deal happens.

At this time, none of the first-rounders in the 2018 class have signed second contracts; that’s more likely to happen in the 2022 league year. Teams have those players on relatively cheap deals based on slotted contracts; even 2018 first-overall pick Baker Mayfield will make just $920,000 in base salary, and a $4,936,770 roster bonus. His prorated bonus of $5,462,360 will also count against the 2021 cap, so Mayfield represents a 2021 cap hit of $10,569,130. His fifth-year option as a player who’s reached the playtime minimum but hasn’t made a Pro Bowl is $18,858 million, and at that point, it might make more sense from a salary cap perspective to lock him up on that second contract.

Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network has the full fifth-year numbers.

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Lamar Jackson is a very interesting case study regarding the fiscal prudence of the fifth-year extension versus a new contract. As a one-time Pro Bowler, Jackson’s fifth-year option number is $23,106 million, a massive upgrade from his 2021 base salary of $1,771,590, and his cap number of $3,013,708. While every quarterback’s future deals will be affected by Patrick Mahomes’ massive 10-year, $450 million deal, Mahomes’ cap hits don’t start to get ridiculous until 2022, when his base salary kicks up from $990,000 to $29,450 million, and 2023, when he starts getting annual roster bonuses the approximate size of the gross national product of France. The Ravens and Jackson could come to terms on a similar deal and save in the short term.

The Bills and Josh Allen are in exactly the same boat, by the way. Allen’s fifth-year option would cost the Bills that same $23,106 million, while his 2021 cap hit is just $6,910,056, based on his status as the seventh overall pick.

So, if you see a lot of action around Jackson and Allen as the 2021 season comes to a close, that’s why.

Here’s the best explainer of the different fifth-year option tiers, from our friends at OverTheCap.com:

Basic: Players who do not meet any of the requirements below will be eligible for a fifth year base salary calculated from the average of the 3rd to 25th highest salaries at their position over the past five seasons.Here’s the best explainer of the different tiers, per our friends at OverTheCap.com:

  • Playtime: These players will be eligible for a fifth year base salary calculated from the average of the 3rd to 20th highest salaries at their position over the past five seasons, provided that their snap counts over their first three seasons meet one of the following three criteria:

    • 75% or greater in two of their first three seasons

    • an average of 75% or greater over all three seasons

    • 50% or greater over all three seasons

  • One Pro Bowl: Players who are named to exactly one Pro Bowl on the original ballot (not as an alternate) will be eligible for a fifth year base salary equal to the transition tender at their position.

  • Multiple Pro Bowls: Players who are named to two or three Pro Bowls on the original ballot (not as an alternate) will be eligible for a fifth year base salary equal to the franchise tender at their position.

In 2020, 13 of the top 32 selections from the 2017 draft class saw their fifth-year options declined, including four of the top five picks: Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, 49ers defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette, and Titans receiver Corey Davis.

In 2019, the retention rate for the 2016 first-round class was much better at the top — the first nine picks saw fifth-year options, through there were still 12 team refusals overall.

In 2018, the 2015 class also saw 12 players who didn’t receive first-year options, but only three of the top 10 picks: Jaguars edge-rusher Dante Fowler Jr., Bears receiver Kevin White, and Giants offensive lineman Ereck Flowers.

The odds are good that as much of 40% of the 2017 class will not see fifth-year options. Here’s how we see the process going in 2021. In this instance, we have 13 players without fifth-year options, including two of the top three picks.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns: Yes

(Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Selected with the first overall pick in the 2018 draft out of Oklahoma, Mayfield has thrown 75 touchdown passes for 43 interceptions in three regular seasons, adding four touchdowns and one pick in the 2020 postseason -- Cleveland's first playoff appearances since 2002. Fully integrated in head coach Kevin Stefanski's offense, Mayfield signed a slotted $32,682,980 contract which included a $21,849,440 signing bonus. Mayfield has not made a Pro Bowl yet, but he reached the playtime threshold, which would net him a fifth-year option number of $18,858 million. That would make him the 15th highest-paid quarterback in the 2022 season as things stand now, which makes it a relative no-brainer.

Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants: No

(Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports)

"Good Lord willing, Saquon will be 100 percent and obviously he’ll make a huge difference. A healthy Saquon obviously makes a big difference, but, again, you’re always looking to add good players." That's what Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said this week when asked about the need to add more playmakers even if Barkley comes back fully recovered from the torn ACL that cost him all but two games in the 2020 season. Barkley led the NFL with 2,028 yards from scrimmage in his rookie season, but injuries limited him to just 13 games and 1,441 scrimmage yards in 2019, and then, the obvious downfall to 94 in 2020. Barkley would be eligible for a $7,217 million fifth-year option as a one-time Pro Bowler, and while he has a special skill set when healthy, that's become too much of a qualifier.

Sam Darnold, QB, New York Jets: No

(Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

Darnold's potential as a quarterback has certainly been limited by the mess that was an Adam Gase offense over the last two seasons, though he was able to transcend that to a point in 2019. But even if it's not entirely his fault, it's going to be tough for the Jets to commit a fifth-year option of $18,858 million based on playtime threshold to a quarterback who, from 2018 through 2020, ranks 20th in attempts and completions, 23rd in touchdowns, the fourth-most interceptions among quarterbacks with at least 500 attempts, 41st in quarterback rating (only Josh Rosen's is worse in that period of time), and 41st in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. All this, by the way, is why you often see either Zach Wilson or Justin Fields as the Jets' second overall pick in most mock drafts.

Denzel Ward, CB, Cleveland Browns: Yes

Denzel Ward Browns
Denzel Ward Browns

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The Browns selected Ward with the fourth pick in the 2018 draft out of Ohio State with the hope that he'd become the lockdown corner the franchise hadn't had in a very long time. So far, so good. While he has been vulnerable to allowing touchdowns at times, it's generally not in bunches, and Ward has every skill you want in a CB1. Over his first three seasons, Ward has allowed 116 receptions no 225 targets for 1,367 yards, 417 yards after the catch, 11 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 73.7. Ward was affected by Cleveland's complete lack of deep coverage safeties last season, so if the Browns can figure that out in free agency and the draft, Ward's fifth-year option of $13,294 million as a one-time Pro Bowler will be a relative bargain.

Bradley Chubb, EDGE, Denver Broncos: Yes

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

If the Broncos decide to give Chubb a $12,716 million fifth-year option as a one-time Pro Bowler, they'll have to assume that he's the future of the team's pass rush in the post-Von Miller era. When healthy, Chubb has shown enough to merit that relatively low number for a near-elite edge defender. Chubb missed 12 games in his second season to a torn ACL, but it didn't affect his 2020 season -- he had 57 total pressures in 2018, and 57 total pressures in 2020, including a 10-pressure game against the Jets in Week 4, and an 11-pressure game against the Dolphins in Week 11. You could look at Chubb's 7.5 sacks in 2020 and see that as a regression from the 12 takedowns he had in 2018, but the tape tells a different story.

Quenton Nelson, OG, Indianapolis Colts: Obviously, yes

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Since 1960, just 14 offensive guards have been selected with any one of the first six picks in any draft, which made Nelson's sixth overall selection in the 2018 draft a bit unusual. In retrospect, the only unusual thing about it is the unusual bargain the Colts got there. It can't be said of many NFL players at any time, but Nelson has become not only the unquestionable best player at his left guard position, but by an absolutely crushing margin. Nelson will get a fifth-year option of $13,754 million as a three-time Pro Bowler (he's also made All-Pro in each of his first three seasons), and the only deliberation the Colts' front office should have here is how quickly to do it.

Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills: Obviously, yes

(Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)

In his first two seasons with the Bills, the seventh overall pick in the 2018 draft looked a lot like the player he was at Wyoming -- a guy with a cannon arm, impressive mobility, and little else. Allen completed just 56.3% of his passes with 30 touchdowns, 21 interceptions, and a passer rating of 78.2. Were we having this discussion a year ago, giving Allen a fifth-year option would be very much open to debate. And then, the light went on for Allen at a level we rarely see. Allen led the Bills to the AFC Championship game with a season in which he completed 69.2% of his passes for 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, adding five touchdown passes and one pick in the postseason. Under offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, Allen fixed his accuracy and consistency issues, and also became a much better passer through the season against more advanced coverages and coverage switches. The Bills have their first real franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly, and the only thing preventing Buffalo from exercising the $23,106 million fifth-year option would be the long-term second contract that will probably come sooner than later.

Roquan Smith, LB, Chicago Bears: Yes

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

When the Bears selected Smith out of Georgia with the eighth overall pick in 2018, the idea was that he would be able to use his rare athletic gifts to become the next great linebacker in the franchise lineage. Though Smith isn't thought of as the next Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Mike Singletary, or Dick Butkus from a name perspective, he has quietly been one of the better players at his position. Smith ranks seventh in his three-year career in solo tackles with 253, tied with San Francisco's Fred Warner. Only Lavonte David and Demario Davis have more tackles for loss than Smith's 31, he's tied for eighth in sacks with Blake Martinez with 11, and in three seasons, he's allowed 168 receptions in 229 targets for 1,466 yards, 957 yards after the catch, two touchdowns, five interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 83.7. We don't often talk about Smith when we discuss the league's best linebackers (maybe we should), but he's well worth the $9,735 million fifth-year option if the Bears decide to go that route.

Mike McGlinchey, RT, San Francisco 49ers: No

(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

NFL teams have found a lot of success when selecting offensive linemen from Notre Dame in recent years -- just ask the Ravens (Ronnie Stanley), the Cowboys (Zack Martin), or the Colts (Quenton Nelson). The 49ers obviously thought they were getting one of Those Guys when they took McGlinchey with the ninth overall pick in 2018. Unfortunately, it hasn't worked out as the team envisioned -- McGlinchey has allowed 16 sacks, 25 quarterback hits, and 63 quarterback hurries in his three-year career, and at least five sacks and 28 total pressures each season. That makes a $10,880 million fifth-year extension a bit tough to swallow.

Josh Rosen, QB, San Francisco 49ers: Obviously, no

(Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

Well, this was a miss. In the lead-up to the 2018 draft, I hypothesized that Rosen should be the favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, based on his work at UCLA. Clearly, that did not happen. Rosen had a disastrous first year in some very bad Cardinals offenses, was offloaded to the Dolphins after Arizona replaced him with Kyler Murray with the first overall pick in 2019, and has bounced around from team to team since. With a 54.8% completion rate and a 12-19 touchdown-to-interception ratio, Rosen hasn't even proven that he can be a credible NFL starter, much less a guy who would be worthy of a no-frills $16,534 million extension as a quarterback with no playtime or Pro Bowl consideration.

Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Obviously, yes

(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

The Dolphins selected Fitzpatrick with the 11th overall pick in the 2018 draft and played him heavily in the slot. Fitzpatrick acquitted himself as well as you'd expect from a guy who played multiple positions for Nick Saban, allowing 35 catches on 62 targets for 416 yards, 194 yards after the catch, one touchdown, two interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 69.0. After the Steelers traded their 2020 first-round pick for Fitzpatrick in mid-September, 2019, they turned him loose as primarily a free safety, and Fitzpatrick thrived there, as well -- in 2019 as a safety, he allowed 15 receptions on 23 targets for 216 yards, 73 yards after the catch, three touchdowns, five interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 95.6. In 2020 as a free and strong safety, Fitzpatrick improved in every capacity, allowing seven catches on 16 targets for 115 yards, 22 yards after the catch, one touchdown, four interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 40.0. If you have a player who can handle two crucial positions that well, you hand him a fifth-year option of $10,612 million as a two-time Pro Bowler (and two-time All-Pro), and you do it without hesitation until and unless you sign him to that second deal.

Vita Vea, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Obviously, yes

(Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports)

Vea missed 11 regular-season games and the Buccaneers' first two playoff games with an ankle injury, coming back in time for the NFC Championship game and Super Bowl LV. So, Vea's 2020 stats (nine tackles, 10 stops, and 32 total pressures) aren't representative of his value to the team -- but the on-off splits for Tampa Bay's defense with and without Vea certainly are. The Buccaneers allowed 4.0 yards per carry without Vea, and 2.8 yards per carry with him. Their sack rate went from 6.5% without him to 9.2% with him, and the Bucs forced blown blocks on 13.8% of their defensive snaps without him, and 19.2% of their defensive snaps with him. Vea is a tone-setter on that dominant defensive line, and as such, he's a fifth-year option bargain at $7,638 million with no playtime or Pro Bowl additions.

Da'Ron Payne, DL, Washington Football Team: Yes

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Payne isn't the flashiest player, and he tends to get lost from a name perspective on a Washington defensive front that boasted five first-round picks in 2020 -- Payne, Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan, and Chase Young. He's amassed 12 sacks, including two of Tom Brady in the 2020 wild-card round, 10 quarterback hits, 64 quarterback pressures, 18 tackles for loss, 96 solo tackles, 103 stops, and eight batted passes in his three-year career. Payne is the kind of player who looks better on tape and has more of a positive effect on a defense than the numbers might show, specifically with his ability to play credibly everywhere from nose tackle right over the center to defensive end in three-man fronts. The Football Team will likely lose Kerrigan to free agency, and there will be a lot of future contract decisions to be made with Allen, Sweat, and Young, but at $8,529 million based on playtime, Payne is a reasonable fifth-year choice based on performance.

Marcus Davenport, EDGE, New Orleans Saints: No

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

In his NFL career, Davenport has 42 potential starting opportunities, and just 14 career starts. 12 sacks over three seasons, and no sacks in four playoff games. 36 career quarterback hits, which ranks 58th among all defensive players since 2018. To put that in perspective, Jets and Seahawks safety Jamal Adams has 19.5 career sacks and 35 quarterback hurries, and he's a blitz specialist. Davenport's best season came in 2019 when he totaled 51 total pressures and 17 stops, and if he'd been able to perform at that level in each of his three seasons, we may be telling a different story here. But there's a reason that Trey Hendrickson was able to come out of nowhere in 2020 to become New Orleans' sack and pressure leader. Injuries have played a part here, but Davenport has just never been able to live up to the hope the Saints had in him when they made him the 14th overall pick in 2018, trading up from 27 to do so.

Kolton Miller, OT, Las Vegas Raiders: Yes

(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Outside of Josh Allen, has any player from the first round of the 2018 class improved more from his rookie season to now as much as Miller has? He was an absolute overwhelmed disaster in his rookie season, allowing a league-high 16 sacks and 42 quarterback hurries, and the tape backed that up -- Miller simply didn't have the technique to deal with NFL pass-rushers. But he's put it together remarkably in three seasons, dropping down to seven sacks and 37 total pressures allowed in 2019, to two sacks and 31 total pressures allowed in 2020. Miller also cut his penalties in half from 2018 (eight) to four in each of the last two seasons, and that's with a Raiders offense that relied more on the deep ball last season. He's learned how to use his hands to deal with pass-rushers around the arc, and his ability to pick up stunts and games is now at an entirely different level. At $10,880 million for a fifth-year option based on playtime and no Pro Bowls, Miller's a good bet to get it based on his radical improvement curve.

Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Buffalo Bills: Yes

(Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)

Edmunds was perhaps the freakiest athlete in the 2018 class, running a 4.54 40-yard dash at 6'5" and 253 pounds, and he was far more than a workout wonder. In three years with Virginia Tech (two as a full-time starter), he amassed 112 solo tackles, 33 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, one interception and three forced fumbles. He's lived up to that potential at times, though there are other times where you'd like to see him use his athleticism to be more sudden to the ball. When Edmunds trusts what he sees, he's a real weapon. When he doesn't, he can be late to stop the run, and a liability in coverage -- Edmunds has regressed in interceptions and passer rating allowed in each of his three NFL seasons. But the Bills play a ton of nickel, they just resigned linebacker Matt Milano to a four-year, $44 million contract extension, and they need the optimal version of Edmunds in that equation to play defense at their highest possible level.

Derwin James, CB, Los Angeles Chargers: Yes

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

James enjoyed one of the more dynamic rookie seasons any defensive player has had in recent years. In 2018, he made the Pro Bowl and was named an All-Pro after totaling 3.5 sacks, racking up 75 solo tackles, and allowing 44 catches on 62 targets for 364 yards, 310 yards after the catch, two touchdowns, three interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 76.3. The only issue since then has been James' availability -- he played just five games in 2019 due to a foot injury, and he missed all of the 2020 season due to a torn meniscus. James is unquestionably one of the NFL's best safeties when healthy; sadly, that's become a qualifier. James would be due $9,052 million for his fifth-year option, which represents a considerable bargain over what he'd be eligible for in a second contract had he been healthy and playing at his 2018 level all along.

Jaire Alexander, CB, Green Bay Packers: Obviously, yes

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Among cornerbacks who played at least 50% of their defenses' snaps in 2020, only Miami's Xavien Howard allowed a lower opponent passer rating than Alexander's 54.3, which Alexander accomplished by allowing 37 receptions on 76 targets for 353 yards, 111 yards after the catch, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. Alexander saved his best for the playoffs -- against the Rams in the divisional round, he gave up one catch on two targets for minus-3 yards. And in the NFC Championship game against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, he gave up one catch on five targets for 19 yards, nine yards after the catch. He also bagged two interceptions, and left Brady with an opponent passer rating of 3.3. The Bucs may have won the game, and eventually the Super Bowl, but Brady learned that targeting Mike Evans on deep routes when Alexander was in the picture was Not A Good Idea. One imagines that Alexander will cash in with a major second contract sooner than later, but the $13,294 million fifth-year option for him would be among the more prominent no-brainers on this list.

Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Dallas Cowboys: No

(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Selected with the 19th overall pick in the 2018 draft, Vander Esch was added to Dallas' roster in part to augment a defense that kept missing the presence of Sean Lee -- a great linebacker when healthy, which was all too infrequently. Unfortunately, Vander Esch inherited both parts of the Sean Lee paradigm. He's an amazing player when he's on the field, but he's missed seen action in just 19 games over the last two seasons due to neck, ankle, and collarbone injuries. He had two interceptions and an unbelievable 62 stops in his rookie season, but has not been the same player since. With that history, even the basic fifth-year option of $9,145 million might be too much of a risk.

Frank Ragnow, OL, Detroit Lions: Yes

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

There's tough, there's ridiculously tough, there's Chuck Norris tough... and then, there's Frank Ragnow tough. https://twitter.com/NFL_DougFarrar/status/1339389516293926913 Ouch. In any event, Ragnow allowed no sacks and just nine total pressures in 609 pass-blocking snaps in 2020, displayed all the traits you want in a strong run-blocker, and has advanced his craft in every one of his three NFL seasons. In 2018, he gave up four sacks and 36 total pressures as the team's left guard. The next season, he moved to center and allowed two sacks and 14 total pressures. Ragnow made the Pro Bowl in 2020, which bumps his fifth-year option number up a bit from $10,880 million to $12,657 million, and the Lions should be happy to pay it.

Billy Price, OL, Cincinnati Bengals: No

(Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports)

Last season, first-overall pick Joe Burrow was pressured on 146 of his 453 total dropbacks despite a passing game in which he threw the ball from 0-3 stop drops on 340 of his dropbacks, which led the league through Week 10 -- which is when Burrow was lost for the rest of his rookie season with a torn ACL and LCL. Price was part of the problem when he was active, which happened too infrequently last season. Moving between right guard and center, he gave up a sack and four total pressures on just 138 pass-blocking snaps. Price has struggled to retain his starting role through his brief NFL career, which makes the basic $10,413 fifth-year option quite prohibitive.

Rashaan Evans, LB, Tennessee Titans: No

(Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

This did not work out as expected. The Titans selected Evans with the 22nd pick in the 2018 draft based on four seasons in Nick Saban's Alabama defense in which he totaled 150 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 15 sacks, and two forced fumbles. But it's been tough for Evans to define his role in Tennessee's defense over the last three years. In 2.550 NFL snaps, Evans has amassed 211 tackles, 110 stops, 42 total pressures, and four touchdowns to no interceptions and a 113.5 opponent quarterback rating. Evans has been a decent-to-good player at the NFL level, but a $9,735 million option based on playtime is a bit rich for that.

Isaiah Wynn, OT, New England Patriots: Yes

(Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

Bill Belichick went heavy on Georgia players in the first round of the 2018 draft -- the 23rd pick, which the Patriots acquired from the Rams in the Brandin Cooks trade, was spent on Wynn. New England doubled down by taking running back Sony Michel with the 31st overall pick, making Wynn and Michel the first college teammates drafted by the same NFL team since the then-Washington Redskins took Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell and cornerback Carlos Rogers in 2005. Wynn missed his entire rookie season due to a torn Achilles tendon, and has played at a high level since, allowing 30 total pressures with just five penalties in two full seasons and 660 pass-blocking snaps. Wynn's sacks allowed (five) must be taken in context -- over the last two seasons, the Patriots have not had receivers who can gain separation in coverage, leading to unnecessary quarterback takedowns far too late in the down. Wynn is a bargain with the basic $10,413 million fifth-year option.

D.J. Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers: Yes

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We don't yet know who the Panthers' quarterback will be in 2021 -- odds lead to a first-year draftee and a bridge veteran in Joe Brady's offense -- but whoever that quarterback is, he'll be happy to have Moore on board. Over the last two seasons, Moore has the same number of receptions as Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley (153, tied for 16th in the league), more targets (253) than Amari Cooper, Tyler Lockett, Jarvis Landry, or Michael Thomas, more receiving yards (2.368) than anyone but Stefon Diggs, Travis Kelce, DeAndre Hopkins, Allen Robinson, and Davante Adams, and the NFL's eighth-highest yards per reception rate (15.48). The only area in which Moore has fallen comparatively short among elite NFL receivers is in touchdowns (eight), but you could chalk that up to the fact that Kyle Allen and Teddy Bridgewater (sorry, Teddy), were his primary quarterbacks. Still, last season, Moore had 12 catches of 20 air yards or more, tied with Mike Evans, CeeDee Lamb and D.K. Metcalf for fourth-best in the NFL. The only thing keeping Moore from Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods is the right quarterback, and his fifth-year option of $11,116 million should be seen as a slam-dunk.

Hayden Hurst, TE, Atlanta Falcons: Yes

(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

The Ravens traded a 2020 fourth-round pick in return for the Falcons' 2020 2nd- and 5th-round picks last March, and Hurst responded with career highs in targets (88), receptions (56), receiving yards (571) and touchdowns (six) in Dirk Koetter's offense. Now that former Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith is Atlanta's new head coach, Hurst could see even bigger numbers, as Smith engineered as successful a three-tight end passing game as any offensive play-designer last season. Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed 27 of 42 attempts with three tight ends on the field for 305 yards, 186 air yards, eight touchdowns, and no interceptions. With two tight ends, Tannehill completed 123 passes in 189 attempts for 1,577 yards, 955 air yards, seven touchdowns, and three interceptions. You think Atlanta's best tight end is going to get enough projected reps to merit a $5,428,000 basic fifth-year pickup? Seems pre-ordained to me.

Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons: Yes

(AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

In part because Julio Jones was limited to nine games due to injury, 2020 was the season in which, at least in the short term, Calvin Ridley became the force multiplier in Atlanta's passing game. He led the team with 143 targets, 1,374 yards, and nine touchdowns, and each of those stats placed him in the top 12 throughout the NFL. Including the postseason, which Atlanta did not see in 2020, Ridley led the league with 16 receptions on passes of 20 or more air yards, gaining 475 yards on such catches (tied with Tyreek Hill, and only DK Metcalf had more) and scoring two touchdowns. Whether Jones is fully healthy or not in 2021, you can expect Ridley to continue to be productive in Arthur Smith's offense, which makes the $11,116 fifth-year option pretty easy to swallow.

Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks: Obviously, no

(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Whether Pete Carroll and John Schneider keep their first-round picks or trade them away, Seattle's football braintrust has been rather unconventional with that particular draft capital. Whether it's trading those picks for relative scheme busts like Jimmy Graham and Percy Harvin, or selecting guys like James Carpenter, Bruce Irvin, or Germain Ifedi, it could be hypothesized that the Seahawks are actually better off getting rid of their first-round picks and rolling deep in the second and third days, where they've been exponentially more successful. Of all those first-round picks, Penny has been the most disappointing and least productive. He's played in 28 games and never started one, which is pretty damning when you're in a run-balanced set of schemes as Carroll prefers. Injuries have played a part in Penny's slow NFL start, but career totals of 161 carries for 823 yards five rushing touchdowns, and 17 catches for 158 yards and one touchdown? If this represented Penny's 2020 season alone, I'd still be on the fence as to whether to give him a basic fifth-year option. When there are your career numbers? Time to move on for all involved.

Terrell Edmunds, DB, Pittsburgh Steelers: No, but here's why

(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Terrell Edmunds was one of two brothers to be selected in the first round of the 2018 draft, along with the aforementioned Terrell Edmunds. It was the first time in NFL history that had happened. Early on, the older Edmunds brother has experienced a tougher fit in Pittsburgh's generally dominant defense. But Edmunds did show some improvement in the 2020 season in coverage, allowing 29 receptions in 53 targets for 374 yards, 135 yards after the catch, two touchdowns, two interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 73.9. When you're looking at which players are valuable to a team for their potential, coaches will tell you. Edmunds got a D-minus from head coach Mike Tomlin after his rookie season (ouch), but halfway through the 2020 campaign, Tomlin -- who knows as much about secondaries as any head coach in the NFL -- was singing a different tune. “This guy has logged a bunch of snaps,” Tomlin said last November, after Edmunds picked off Jaguars backup quarterback Jake Luton twice in a 27-3 win. “I think his best ability is his availability over the course of his career. As a young guy, he’s logged a bunch of snaps. Over the course of time, he’s gained quality experience because of it. He’s taken that experience and continually made him a better player. "Really [become a better player] in all areas. In run/pass recognition. I can’t say enough about his run game fits and the way he’s playing in that element of the game here in 2020.” If Edmunds is able to carry that forward, the Steelers would have one of the NFL's most formidable secondary duos with Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Here's the problem: Both Edmunds and Fitzpatrick are on this list, and Fitzpatrick's fifth-year option would cost the team $10,612 million, because he's made multiple Pro Bowls. Edmunds's fifth-year option would cost the team just $6,753 million due to the playtime threshold, but Fitzpatrick has been unquestionably more valuable to that defense, and based on 2022 pre-free agency contract value, that would put Pittsburgh with two safeties in the top 20 -- which might not matter as much as the post-2021 salary cap increases. Technically, the Steelers could give both players the fifth-year option, so we'll see how that goes.

Taven Bryan, DL, Jacksonville Jaguars: Obviously, no

(Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)

Well, it's not as if I can fault the Jaguars for selecting Bryan with the 29th overall pick in the 2018 draft -- in one of my mocks that year, I had the Falcons taking him 26th overall. Fortunately for the Falcons, they were much smarter than me, and instead chose Calvin Ridley. While Bryan ranked third in pass-rush productivity (Pro Football Focus' primary pressure metric) among interior defensive linemen in the 2018 class behind Maurice Hurst and Vita Vea, he ranked 47th in run-stop percentage, and he hasn't been able to extrapolate any of that into consistent NFL pressure. Bryan has started just 17 of a possible 48 games, amassing just 3.5 sacks and 47 total pressures in three seasons. To put that in perspective, Johnathan Allen of the Washington Football Team and William Gholston of the Buccaneers had 47 total pressures last season, and they tied for 11th in the league among inside guys.

Mike Hughes, CB, Minnesota Vikings: No

(Dan Powers-Imagn Content Services, LLC)

Hughes has been a decent player when healthy, but the 30th overall pick in 2018 out of Central Florida hasn't been healthy enough -- he's ended each of his three NFL seasons on injured reserve, playing in just 24 of a possible 48 games. Hughes was supposed to be the one cornerback the Vikings had as a placeholder as they transitioned from veterans to rookies in the group, but he had just 173 snaps in 2020 before a neck injury ended his season in late October. In those 173 snaps, Hughes allowed 12 catches on 16 targets for 134 yards, 66 yards after the catch, one touchdown, no interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 120.3. Hughes has potential as both an outside and slot cornerback if he can stay on the field, but it's more likely than not that some other team will take a gamble on that after the 2021 season.

Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots: No

(Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

When the Patriots wisely scrapped their broken passing game halfway through the 2018 season and started leaning heavily on their gap run game with heavy tight end and fullback sets, it was Michel, the rookie from Georgia, who became the force multiplier in that scenario. He gained 509 yards and scored two touchdowns on 114 carries from Week 10 through the end of the regular season, and turned it up in the postseason, with 336 yards and six rushing touchdowns on 71 carries in the Patriots' most recent Super Bowl run. Sadly, the NFL is a "what have you done for me lately?" league, and in that regard, Michel has struggled to meet expectations. Over the last two seasons, Michel has just 1,361 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns on 326 carries. In total production, that puts him behind guys like Devin Singletary, Carlos Hyde, Adrian Peterson, Leonard Fournette... and Kyler Murray, when Kyler Murray decides to run. Michel added value on special teams late in the season, and his basic fifth-year option of $4,523 million won't break the bank, hut Bill Belichick might be looking in other directions at this point.

Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens: Obviously, yes

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The unanimous 2019 NFL MVP struggled in a comparative sense in the 2020 season, but Jackson still completed 64.4% of his passes in the regular season for 2,757 yards, 26 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. And one year after he broke Michael Vick's single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,206, Jackson topped 1,000 yards again. His playoff failures will present a serious discussion point until and unless he packs them away, and there's work to be done in his passing acumen, but there's a reason one of the first things people thought after Patrick Mahomes' mega-deal was, "How much will the Ravens have to pay Lamar?" An excellent question, and if the Ravens are still considering that in the 2022 league year, a fifth-year option costing $23,106 million provides the necessary bridge to the inevitable post-Mahomes mint.

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