As part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, a system was created that the Vikings have been all over – having a fifth-year option on first-round draft picks. The Vikings have traded back into the first round each of the last three drafts – taking Harrison Smith with the 29th pick in 2012, Cordarrelle Patterson with the 29th pick in 2013 and Teddy Bridgewater with the 32nd pick last year.
When speaking to the local media following the Bridgewater selection, Spielman was quick to point out that, by getting Bridgewater with the final pick of the first round, he would be subject to the option-year protocol. Simply stated, all rookie contracts are four-year deals with the exception of first-rounders. While they sign four years deals, in the spring prior to their final season, teams have the right to exercise the option on a fifth year with a healthy bump in pay.
The Vikings are expected to exercise the fifth-year deal in the next two weeks on Smith if they don’t reach an extension and may consider doing the same on Matt Kalil, although his number would be pretty stiff. Having insurance on keeping Bridgewater for five years is an enormous boost for the organization, which hopes he will be the answer to their prayers at quarterback for the rest of the decade and beyond.
But there is a second facet to the option year inclusion in the CBA that could have the Vikings in an intriguing spot. There are two tiers to the system – one for players taken within the top 10 selections and one for the other 22 first-round draft picks.
This year, the numbers for the different positions on the field had their option year figures determined much in the same way franchise tag numbers change each year. For those players who will be entering their fourth season, teams have until May 3 to exercise their options and the difference between being the 10th pick and the 11th pick is significant.
The 11th pick of the 2012 draft – Kansas City defensive tackle Dontari Poe – has a fifth-year option salary of $6.146 million. Had Poe been the 10th pick, that figure would have been $9.314 million – a difference of $3.168 million or 52 percent of his salary.
Some positions have the difference in salary being even more pronounced. The difference between a running back being selected 10th or 11th has a difference of more than 60 percent in the fifth-year option salary, while safeties have a difference of almost 57 percent.
That is a significant amount of savings for a team that is forward-thinking convinced the player they may covet outside of the top 10 could be a big-time player. Under the current figures, a quarterback taken with the 11th pick would have a fifth-year option salary about $5.5 million less than if he was taken with the 10th pick. A defensive end would cost $4.2 million less. A wide receiver would cost $3.6 million less. A cornerback would cost $3.5 million less. An offensive lineman would cost $3 million less … and the list goes on.
While teams target players for various reasons, one reason that may be part of the action in a week when the first round takes place is that the 11th pick may have a lot of value to teams both in front and behind the Vikings. Armed with that knowledge, when teams potentially come calling the Vikings to see if they want to get off their spot, if the Vikings are willing to trade out of No. 11, they may be able to squeeze a little extra in trade compensation from the other team because it would seem clear that, from the team standpoint, picking at No. 11 is a lot better than picking at No. 10.
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