2020 NFL CBA Explained: 5th Year Option in Rookie Contracts

The fifth-year option got a makeover under the new CBA. Each player selected in the first round of the NFL draft has a team option for a fifth season automatically included in his contract, which extends the four-year rookie contract to a fifth season for a non-negotiable fixed amount. Teams must exercise this option in the time after the conclusion of the player’s third regular season but prior to May 3 of the following league year.

Players selected in the 2016 and 2017 NFL Drafts will have different fifth-year options thresholds than those selected in 2018 and beyond.

For players selected in the top 10 picks of the 2016 or ’17 drafts, the fifth-year option will pay a base salary equal to the transition tag for the position at which he played the most plays in his fourth season (the season prior to the option year). For those selected from picks 11 to 32, the option will be equal to an amount calculated by using the formula for the transition tag but with the third- through 25th-highest PYS in the player’s fourth season rather than the top 10 such salaries. The tender for the 2016 and ’17 classes is guaranteed for injury only and becomes fully guaranteed for skill, cap and injury if the player is on the active roster at the start of the league year of his fifth (the option) season.

Starting with players selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, players can earn different fifth-year option salaries based on their performance in the first three seasons of their career. The fifth-year option for such players is fully guaranteed at the time it is exercised rather than on the first day of the league year of the option. If such a player’s fourth-year salary is not fully guaranteed for skill, cap and injury, it becomes guaranteed as well when the option in exercised.

First-round picks will receive a base salary equal to the cap percentage average of the transition tag for the player’s position in his fourth season but using the appropriate third- through 25th-highest PYS if they have not been selected to the Pro Bowl on the original ballot and did not (a) partake in at least 75 percent of his team’s offensive or defensive plays in two of his first three regular seasons or (b) play a cumulative average of 75 percent of his team’s offensive or defensive plays over the course of his first three regular seasons or (c) log at least 50 percent of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in each of his first three regular seasons.

First-round picks will receive a base salary equal to the cap percentage average of the transition tag for the player’s position in his fourth season but using the appropriate third- through 20th-highest PYS at the player’s position if they have not been selected to the Pro Bowl on the original ballot but did (a) partake in at least 75 percent of his team’s offensive or defensive plays in two of his first three regular seasons or (b) play a cumulative average of 75 percent of his team’s offensive or defensive plays over the course of his first three regular seasons or (c) log at least 50 percent of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in each of his first three regular seasons.

A first-round pick named to the Pro Bowl on the original ballot in one of his first three regular seasons will receive a fifth-year option equal to the transition tag at his position for the league year of the player’s fourth year of his rookie deal. Those selected to two or more Pro Bowls in their first three seasons will receive a fifth-year option equal to the franchise tag applicable to his position in the player’s fourth season.

Players on the fifth-year option will be fined $40,000 for each day of any late reporting or absence from training camp (increased to $45,000 in 2026) and one week of regular-season salary for each preseason game missed.

Examples (2016 draft class):
– Ravens OT Ronnie Stanley (sixth overall in 2016 Draft): $12.866 million in 2020.
– Texans OT Laremy Tunsil (13th overall in 2016 Draft): $10.350 million in 2020.

Examples (2018 draft class):
– Colts OG Quenton Nelson is already eligible for the highest fifth-year option (made 2019 and 2020 Pro Bowls on original ballot).
– Giants RB Saquon Barkley is already eligible for the second-highest fifth-year option (made 2019 Pro Bowl on original ballot) and is eligible for the highest such option if he makes the 2021 Pro Bowl on the original ballot.
– Browns QB Baker Mayfield has not been selected to a Pro Bowl on the original ballot, but he is already eligible for the third-highest fifth-year option because he played 75 percent of the Browns‘ offensive plays in each of the last two seasons (82.6 percent in 2018 and 99.2 percent in 2019, according to Next Gen Stats).

Here is a link to the terms of the 5th-year option under the previous CBA: https://frontofficenfl.com/2017/03/27/nfl-rookie-contracts-explained-fifth-year-option/

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