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Analyzing Cam Heyward’s 5th Year Option With The Steelers

Some NFL teams are starting to pick up the 5th year options for their 2011 first round picks. If you’re not familiar with it, the 5th year option is a provision in the new CBA that allows teams to extend a player’s rookie contract by one year. The window to pick up the option is between the end of the 3rd season, and May 3rd of the fourth year.

The cost of the 5th year option varies depending on where the player was selected, and what general position they play. Players selected in the first 10 picks carry a one year salary equal to the transition tag amount. Outside of the first ten picks, the numbers are similar to the transition tag, but the top 3-25 salaries are used to calculate the salary, as opposed to the top ten salaries. The money is only guaranteed due to injury.

Here are the top ten option amounts by position:

Quarterback: $14.666 Mil
Running back: $8.033 Mil
Wide receiver: $10.176 Mil
Tight end: $6.106 Mil
Offensive lineman: $10.039 Mil
Defensive end: $10.633 Mil
Defensive tackle: $8.060 Mil
Linebacker: $9.754 Mil
Cornerback: $10.081 Mil
Safety: $7.253 Mil
Kicker/punter: $3.205 Mil

Here are the numbers for picks 11-32 on offense:

Quarterback: $9.686 Mil
Running back: $5.211 Mil
Wide receiver: $6.776 Mil
Tight End: $3.913 Mil
Offensive lineman: $7.438 Mil

Here are the numbers for picks 11-32 on defense:

Defensive End: $6.969 Mil
Defensive Tackle: $5.477 Mil
Linebacker: $7.038 Mil
Cornerback: $6.898 Mil
Safety: $4.670 Mil

As you can see, if the Steelers pick up the fifth year option for Cam Heyward, his 2015 salary will be $6,969,000. While it’s probable that they will indeed pick up the option, it might not be the smartest action from a management standpoint. If they are going to extend Heyward, which I’m sure they’ll want to do, then they could be smart to avoid the 5th year option and just work towards an extension. I don’t have statistical data to back it up, but when you add a fixed one year sum (ie transition or franchise tag), it can add a complication to the negotiation of a long term contract.

Aside from that possible consequence, there really isn’t any harm in picking up the option. While the money is guaranteed in case of injury, the club retains the rights to the player for another year, and can sign the player to an extension at any point.

About Steve Alan

Steve, known by most as TTF, is owner of TheSteelersFans and administrator of the best Steelers message board on the net. Big fan of strong coffee and hardcore Steelers fan from womb to tomb.