Picking up the fifth-year option on 2015 first-round draft picks is a big decision for NFL teams. Do you guarantee millions of dollars toward the 2019 season or do you let a first-round pick, in whom you’ve invested time and money, hit free agency? Here’s a closer look at those decisions and what that player has to do to earn a second contract with his current team.
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AFC East | AFC North| AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West
The Bills had no first-round pick in 2015, trading it to Cleveland in 2014 to move up to draft Sammy Watkins.
WR DeVante Parker
Why his contract was picked up: Parker has not met expectations since being selected 14th overall, but there is still hope that he can blossom into a No. 1 receiver after the trade of Jarvis Landry this offseason. Parker’s $9.4 million salary in 2019 is guaranteed only for injury until the start of the next league year, so the Dolphins can still decide not to pick up Parker’s option — as long as he is healthy — if he does not improve in 2018.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Take advantage of a jumbled Dolphins depth chart at receiver and take the lead in replacing the production of Landry — 112 catches for 987 yards and nine touchdowns last season. At 6-foot-3, Parker has a chance to stand out over a group of smaller receivers in Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant. He also can benefit with the return of quarterback Ryan Tannehill from an injury last season.
LB Stephone Anthony
Why his contract wasn’t picked up: Anthony showed promise as a rookie after being selected 31st overall by the Saints in 2015, leading all rookies in tackles with 112. However, he has made just 30 tackles since then, and New Orleans dealt him to Miami for a fifth-rounder last year. He played in eight games last season with Miami, with much of his time coming on special teams and on obvious passing downs. His production didn’t show he’s worth the $9.6 million that he would have received with the option.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: With Lawrence Timmons gone, there is an opportunity to earn playing time at outside linebacker in 2018, but Anthony also will have to beat out rookie Jerome Baker, a third-round pick. If Anthony can bounce back to the form he showed as a rookie, he could boost his value significantly. — Mike Rodak
DT Danny Shelton
Why his contract wasn’t picked up: The fifth-year option was worth $7.1 million, and nose tackles who come off the field in passing situations generally don’t make that type of money.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Shelton should get a second contract, it just might not be at that financial level. If he shows he can be a valuable pocket pusher in passing situations, the value of his contract will rise.
WR Phillip Dorsett
Why his contract wasn’t picked up: Dorsett was acquired in a trade with the Colts for Jacoby Brissett and while his smarts and speed give him a chance to possibly carve out a larger role in 2018, the Patriots weren’t going to commit a fifth-year option north of $9 million for him.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Dorsett has value on a team’s roster as a depth option, so he should get a second contract; but at this point, it would be at a much lower financial level than $9 million.
DT Malcom Brown
Why his contract wasn’t picked up: This is similar to the Patriots’ thinking with Danny Shelton, as the fifth-year option was worth $7.1 million and nose tackles who come off the field in passing situations generally don’t make that type of money.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Brown has shown a knack to penetrate and rush the passer at times, and expanding that part of his game would help him land his next contract at a nice salary. — Mike Reiss
DE Leonard Williams
Why his contract was picked up: Quite simply, he’s one of the best players on the team. Even though his sack total dropped to two last season, Williams — drafted sixth overall in 2015 — is part of the team’s foundation. He has plenty of talent, and he does everything the right way, on and off the field.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Play like he did in 2016, when he had seven sacks and made the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement. The Jets have every intention of signing him to a long-term deal, but they probably will wait until after the season. One concern: The defensive line is rebuilding with young players, which means Williams could see an inordinate amount of double-teams. That could affect his stats, which in turn, will have an effect at the bargaining table. — Rich Cimini
WR Breshad Perriman
Why his contract wasn’t picked up: Perriman ranks as one of the biggest busts in the franchise’s 23-year history. He struggles catching the ball, can’t stay healthy and doesn’t play as fast as his 4.24 speed in the 40-yard dash. In 27 games, Perriman has managed 43 catches for 576 yards and three touchdowns.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Perriman might not even make it to the preseason, much less get a second contract. He is due a $649,485 bonus on the third day of Baltimore’s training camp, and the Ravens could decide to cut him before paying him that. It seems like Baltimore already has prepared to move forward without Perriman, after signing three wide receivers in free agency: Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead. — Jamison Hensley
OT Cedric Ogbuehi
Why his contract wasn’t picked up: Ogbuehi was supposed to be the heir apparent to left tackle Andrew Whitworth, but he barely even saw the field until his second season, when he struggled at right tackle. Ogbuehi said left tackle was his natural position, but he struggled there too, and the writing was on the wall when the Bengals traded for Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn this spring. Ogbuehi will now go into OTAs as a backup.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Ogbuehi would have to either find a way to move inside or beat out Jake Fisher as starting right tackle and make a significant improvement. If he doesn’t, he’ll likely be a free agent in 2019. — Katherine Terrell
FS Damarious Randall
Why his contract was picked up: The Browns needed a safety to roam the middle of the field and allow Jabrill Peppers to play in his more natural spot closer to the line. They made Randall that player when they acquired him from Green Bay in March. Randall needed a fresh start and will get one roaming the deep middle for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. (Note: Neither of the Browns’ two first-round picks from 2015 are with the team; Cam Erving is in Kansas City, Danny Shelton in New England.)
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Play the position that he says is his natural one with savvy and smarts. Williams asks his free safety to roam the deep middle; if Randall protects against balls going over his head and comes up with some turnovers, the Browns will be happy to give him a new deal after 2019. — Pat McManamon
OLB Bud Dupree
Why his contract was picked up: The Steelers believe Dupree is an ascending player despite totaling 14.5 sacks over three years. He has played through various injuries. And he was explosive when utilizing his high-level size and speed. General manager Kevin Colbert tipped his hand in March by saying that Dupree was “just scratching the surface” of his potential.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Put together a complete season. Dupree can look dominant one game and simply blend in the next. Staying healthy and contending for a season of double-digit sacks would quell any concerns about Pittsburgh investing long term. Creating a few more turnovers wouldn’t hurt, either. Dupree has one forced fumble and zero interceptions. — Jeremy Fowler
CB Kevin Johnson
Why his contract was picked up: The Texans are hoping Johnson’s struggles over the past two seasons have been because of injuries and that he can turn it around with a healthy 2018. The Texans had inconsistency at cornerback last season, and they hope Johnson’s $9.06 million fifth-year option provides them some depth at the position.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Johnson has to stay healthy and have a much better season than he did in 2017. The Texans’ top three corners are Johnathan Joseph, Aaron Colvin and Kareem Jackson. Jackson is in the final year of a four-year deal, and Joseph has one more year after next season, so the Texans could bring Johnson back on a team-friendly deal if they do not re-sign Jackson and they see enough from Johnson that they believe he’s worth investing in. — Sarah Barshop
The Colts traded 2015 first-round pick Phillip Dorsett to the Patriots in 2017.
DE Dante Fowler Jr.
Why his contract wasn’t picked up: Fowler isn’t a dynamic pass-rusher and has started just one game in the past two seasons. He missed his rookie season with a torn ACL and since then has been behind 2016 third-round pick Yannick Ngakoue on the depth chart. Fowler has 12 sacks and 21 quarterback hits in his two seasons, as compared to Ngakoue’s 20 and 37. That doesn’t warrant a $14.2 million salary.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: The Jaguars do view Fowler as an ascending player, but he’s going to have to put up double-digit sacks and get more consistent pressure on the quarterback in 2018. To do that, he needs to add another pass-rush move, because he’s limited in what he does. His two sacks in the AFC title game show he can make big plays when it counts, but he can’t disappear for long stretches. — Michael DiRocco
QB Marcus Mariota
Why his contract was picked up: This was an easy decision for Titans general manager Jon Robinson, who believes that Mariota is a franchise QB and one who can eventually lead them to a Super Bowl. Mariota’s numbers were bad last season under an inflexible offense, but he still led the Titans to their first playoff win since 2003. Mariota still has plenty to prove, but there wasn’t much of a consideration of declining the option.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: First, play better than last season and make sure the Titans don’t take a step back as a team. If Mariota has a successful Year 4 (say, 3,500-plus total yards, 25-plus total TDs and 12 or fewer interceptions) under new Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, the 24-year-old signal-caller will likely receive a nine-figure contract extension next offseason. — Cameron Wolfe
OLB Shane Ray
Why his contract wasn’t picked up: The biggest reason stands 6-foot-4¼ and weighs about 268 pounds. When the Broncos used the No. 5 pick of this year’s draft on Bradley Chubb, the dynamic changed in the Broncos’ defense. Chubb, unless things don’t go as expected, will start at outside linebacker; and the Broncos will simply want to see more production from Ray.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Get to the quarterback. After a frustrating 2017 that featured three wrist surgeries and just one sack, Ray can now essentially bet on himself and put up the numbers as he goes into free agency next March poised for a payday. And if the Broncos like what they see, they can still write the check. — Jeff Legwold
OT Cam Erving
Why his contract wasn’t picked up: With Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz solid as the starters, Erving will be the Chiefs’ third tackle this year. Picking up his fifth-year option at more than $9 million wouldn’t make sense for a backup. Erving was acquired in a trade with the Browns shortly before the start of last season.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: It’s not out of the question that the Chiefs will try to re-sign Erving. They like his skills and potential, and he won’t turn 26 until August. But it won’t be at a steep cost, unless an injury to Fisher or Schwartz provides an opening for Erving and he proves deserving. — Adam Teicher
RB Melvin Gordon
Why his contract was picked up: After a rough start, the Wisconsin product proved his worth, totaling 1,581 yards from scrimmage (No. 5 in the NFL) and 12 total touchdowns in 2017. Only Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott (25) have more touchdowns than Gordon’s 24 total touchdowns in the past two seasons, as Gordon emerged as a focal part of the Chargers’ offense.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Gordon still has two years left on his rookie contract. If he puts together a season in 2018 similar to last year’s production, the Chargers could look to sign him to a multiyear deal that keeps him with the organization during the offseason in 2019. — Eric D. Williams
WR Amari Cooper
Why his contract was picked up: Simple, as coach Jon Gruden said: Cooper will “be the focal point of our pass offense” in 2018. “He’s got tremendous quickness,” Gruden said. “I think he’s smart, he’s versatile, he’s a gamer, he likes the bright lights and he’ll be the headliner in our offense.” The No. 4 overall pick of the 2015 draft is just the third player in league history with at least 70 catches and at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first two seasons in the NFL.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Prove that last season’s regression to 48 catches for 680 yards was a fluke and improve on his drop rate. Still, Cooper did have a career-best seven TD catches in 2017, and the Raiders expect the arrival of veteran Jordy Nelson to have a calming influence on him. “He had a lot of injuries last year, and that impacted him,” Gruden said. — Paul Gutierrez
DB Byron Jones
Why his contract was picked up: There wasn’t a reason to not pick it up. It’s guaranteed only for injury, and Jones has not missed a game in his career. He has started 43 of 48 games in his first three seasons, and he spent the past two seasons as a starting safety. The Cowboys want more takeaways, but he is a dependable player.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: He has two interceptions and two forced fumbles in his career. He has to make more plays on the ball. The move to cornerback under new defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator Kris Richard should give him that chance. If he can make the big plays for the defense, then the Cowboys would want to make him a cornerstone piece to the defense for the long term. — Todd Archer
OT Ereck Flowers
Why his contract wasn’t picked up: He simply did not play well his first three years. The Giants paid Nate Solder $65 million just to make sure Flowers wasn’t their left tackle this season. Flowers also isn’t especially popular in the offensive line room and within the building, especially after deciding not to attend this season’s voluntary offseason workouts.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Mend some fences and play significantly better. The Giants are trying to clean up the locker room, and Flowers has to prove he’s on board with the new regime. Then he needs to show he can be a competent right tackle, where he is expected to compete for a starting job, rather than a liability to quarterback Eli Manning‘s well-being. — Jordan Raanan
WR Nelson Agholor
Why his contract was picked up: He found his footing this past season after a slow start to his career, catching 62 balls for 768 yards with eight touchdowns for the Super Bowl champion Eagles. The former Southern California star took over as the team’s slot receiver when Jordan Matthews was traded to the Bills. The role proved to be a perfect fit for his skill set, and he took off.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Agholor fought past the confidence issues that held him back in 2016 and took a big step toward reaching his potential. As long as the arrow continues to point up, he’ll get paid. — Tim McManus
RG Brandon Scherff
Why his contract was picked up: Because he has lived up to being the fifth overall pick, having made two Pro Bowls already. He has established himself as one of the best guards after only three seasons, with his ability to block in space yet play with power.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Stay healthy and just do what he has been doing. It’s really that simple. One reason the Redskins didn’t want to pay Kirk Cousins more than $22 million to $23 million a year is to allow them to extend the contracts of players such as Scherff. He’ll be a mainstay in Washington for a long time. — John Keim
WR Kevin White
Why his contract wasn’t picked up: White has appeared in just five career regular-season games because of multiple leg and shoulder injuries. Even when healthy, White — the seventh overall pick of the 2015 draft — hasn’t looked overly impressive. The 25-year-old wideout only has 21 career receptions for 193 yards and zero touchdowns.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Play a full, 16-game schedule. White’s main problem — aside from always being on injured reserve — is that he never learned how to run professional routes in college. White’s primary responsibility at West Virginia was to beat the defender in front of him by any means necessary. That really doesn’t work in the NFL. White’s limited route tree has been compounded by the fact that he’s rarely on the field. How can he learn to run routes the proper way if he’s not physically able to run routes? For White, the key to a possible comeback is to stay healthy. — Jeff Dickerson
The Lions’ first-round pick in 2015, offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson, was traded to San Francisco in August for a fifth-round pick in 2019.
The Packers traded their 2015 first-round pick, Damarious Randall, to the Browns in the DeShone Kizer deal in March.
CB Trae Waynes
Why his contract was picked up: Waynes played a big role in the league’s second-best pass defense, which allowed 192.4 yards per game last season, and he has only gotten better as he has continued to develop under coach Mike Zimmer’s tutelage. When teams decided not to throw toward Xavier Rhodes, that meant Waynes was going to be put to the test often. According to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks threw 102 times in Waynes’ direction, and he allowed only three touchdowns and made 11 pass deflections and two interceptions. The Vikings’ secondary is loaded from top to bottom, and along the lines of Zimmer’s philosophy on cornerbacks, a team can never have too many. Picking up Waynes’ fifth-year option keeps that group intact through at least 2019.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: The type of improvement Waynes showed in Year 3 might foreshadow another level he’s about to take his game to in 2018. He has earned his reputation as one of the best run-stopping corners in the league. If he can become a better coverage corner, like Rhodes, there’s a chance Waynes could command big money in free agency in two years and choose to sign with a team other than the Vikings. — Courtney Cronin
DE Vic Beasley
Why his contract was picked up: The Falcons obviously have a lot of faith in Beasley, the former eighth overall pick out of Clemson. He led the league with 15.5 sacks in 2016 and showed the knack for the sack-fumble. Beasley’s speed and overall athleticism can overwhelm those trying to block him.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Beasley wasn’t nearly as dominant last season, for several reasons. First, he had a nagging hamstring injury that led to some missed time. Then he was asked to take on more responsibilities, playing strongside linebacker and dropping in coverage. But Beasley will line up strictly at defensive end moving forward. So to secure a lucrative, long-term deal, he simply needs to get after quarterbacks in the same manner he did during his Pro Bowl season. And Beasley needs to turn sacks into turnovers with those sack-fumbles. — Vaughn McClure
LB Shaq Thompson
Why his contract was picked up: This was a no-brainer. Thompson is the heir apparent to Thomas Davis at outside linebacker. He’ll replace Davis in the first four games this season while Davis serves a four-game suspension. But Thompson has proved to have the speed and versatility to rush the quarterback, be effective against the run and drop into coverage.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Just progress as he has the past two seasons and this also will be a no-brainer. — David Newton
G Andrus Peat
Why his contract was picked up: The former Stanford left tackle has developed into a Pro Bowl-caliber left guard for one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. His career got off to a slow start when he struggled with his conditioning as a rookie, and the Saints tried him out at several different positions. But the massive 6-foot-7, 316-pounder has steadily improved each year, and he gives the team added value as a backup left tackle when needed.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: More of the same. The Saints have a ton invested in their offensive line, so in theory, they might not be able to keep re-signing everyone. But they made those investments by design, which led to them leading the NFL in both yards per rush and yards per pass attempt in 2017. And the 24-year-old Peat is first in line for the next contract extension. — Mike Triplett
QB Jameis Winston
Why his contract was picked up: This was fully expected, and he will be getting a second contract that will top more than $20 million annually. It’s simply par for the course for a quarterback picked first overall who, two seasons ago, led the Bucs to a 9-7 finish.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: He took a few steps back last year when he suffered a shoulder injury that had an impact throughout the 2017 season, and he’ll want to cut down on turnovers — he has 59 in 45 games — to evoke more confidence from fans that the Bucs are making the right move. — Jenna Laine
LT D.J. Humphries
Why his contract was picked up: Aside from quarterback, Humphries plays the most valuable position in football: left tackle. He might have durability concerns, but he’s still a living, breathing, healthy (for now) and talented left tackle, and teams would have to be out of their minds to not keep those around for as long as possible — especially on a rookie contract.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Stay healthy. If Humphries stays healthy, he’s all but guaranteed to get a second deal from Arizona because of the reasons listed above. He’s athletic and quick, and he likes to talk about how he loves to block the run. But the biggest difference in Humphries getting a second deal is how he focused himself and shed the reputation for being immature. He grew up, and it’s paying dividends. — Josh Weinfuss
RB Todd Gurley
Why his contract was picked up: Aside from star defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Gurley is the best player on the team. He struggled behind a bad offensive line and an anemic passing attack in 2016, but he bounced back brilliantly in 2017, leading the NFL in scrimmage yards (2,093) and touchdowns (19) while on his way to winning the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award. Gurley has emerged as one of the most complete running backs in the league.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Be patient. The Rams have other, more pressing business to handle with Donald and wide receiver Brandin Cooks on track to be unrestricted free agents next offseason. They also need to get a better sense for the running back market, which won’t happen until Le’Veon Bell gets a deal. Gurley is worthy of a big extension on talent alone, but are the Rams willing to commit so much long-term cap space to a running back? Most of this is out of Gurley’s control.
CB Marcus Peters
Why his contract was picked up: Peters leads the NFL with 19 interceptions in the past three seasons. The Rams gave up a future second-round pick to acquire him from the Chiefs this offseason because they see him as more than a one-year rental.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Behave. Peters has a history of being a problem in the locker room, from getting dismissed by the University of Washington to being handed a one-game suspension by Chiefs coach Andy Reid this past season. But if he stays in line and plays the way he is capable, the Rams would certainly be interested in a long-term commitment. — Alden Gonzalez
DL Arik Armstead
Why his contract was picked up: Given Armstead’s injury history and lack of production, it was a bit of a surprise that the Niners picked up his option. They also know they could find themselves in a worse spot next offseason, when they’d have to use a tag on him to ensure he doesn’t hit the open market if he plays well in 2018.
What he needs to do get a second contract: Armstead is moving to the “big end” spot, which would seem to be a better fit for his skill set than his previous positions. If he can stay healthy and stop the run while offering occasional pass-rush help, he could be in the long-term plans.
G Laken Tomlinson
Why his option wasn’t picked up: Simply put, the cost of the fifth-year option outweighs his production. The fifth-year formula doesn’t separate positions on the offensive line, meaning Tomlinson is lumped in with tackles and centers, as well, which means his fifth-year option price tag would approach $10 million.
What he needs to do to get a second contract: Tomlinson didn’t join the Niners until just before last season, and he struggled adjusting to their scheme early before a strong finish. With a full offseason at his disposal, the 49ers believe he can improve, and general manager John Lynch already has said discussions have begun to retain Tomlinson at a more palatable price tag. — Nick Wagoner
The Seahawks didn’t have a first-round pick in 2015 after trading it to New Orleans for tight end Jimmy Graham.