When it comes time for former Arizona Cardinals' first round draft pick Deone Bucannon to hit the open market, his versatility and positional flexibility will make determining his overall value a challenge.
On Wednesday, though, the Cardinals decided to wait an extra year before allowing Bucannon to become a free agent, as the team elected to pick up the fifth-year option on their "Money" linebacker that will keep him in the fold through the 2018 season, according to a tweet from Bucannon's agents.
Bucannon will play out the final year of his four-year, $7,709,200 rookie contract in 2017 and is now slated to make $8,718,000 in 2018, which will mark his fifth season with the franchise.
Bucannon was selected by Arizona with the 27th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft out of Washington State, and the Oakland, California native began his career as a safety.
However, after playing out his rookie season in Arizona's defensive backfield, Bucannon moved to the linebacker level during training camp in 2015 following an injury to inside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. Since the transition, Bucannon has found a home at linebacker, but has been reluctant to identify with the position group, preferring to label himself as a defensive back until recently.
Entering the 2016 season, the Cardinals gave Bucannon a new title on their roster, referring to him as the team's lone, "$LB" or Money linebacker. Essentially, Bucannon is a Will linebacker in the team's 3-4 scheme, but because Bucannon and the Cardinals value his skills as a coverage player and the versatility he brings to the table, the sides agreed on calling him a Money linebacker.
In three NFL seasons, Bucannon has recorded 284 tackles, one interception, eight passes defended and four forced fumbles. A key cog in the Cardinals' defensive scheme, Bucannon has also registered 5.0 sacks and developed a reputation as one of the best hybrid linebackers in the NFL.
The team's decision to pick up Bucannon's fifth-year option will not preclude the two sides from working on a long-term extension, but with the NFL Draft beginning Thursday, it's unlikely either side will press the other to begin negotiating immediately.
Should Bucannon become a free agent following the 2018 season, his value on the open market will be significantly determined by how the Cardinals deploy him in their scheme over the next two seasons and whether he maintains his ability to serve as a hybrid between a linebacker and coverage player.