The New Orleans Saints made a quiet announcement that serves as a reminder that, while at the moment the focus is on the April 28-30 draft, Tuesday, May 3 is going to be another big day in the NFL – a date that will have plenty of impact on the Minnesota Vikings.
May 3 is the date that teams have to announce whether they intend to exercise the fifth-year option on players drafted in the first round.
The selection of the Tuesday after the draft isn’t a coincidence. It was written into the Collective Bargaining Agreement of 2011 that contracts would be limited to four years for rookies, but afforded teams the option to exercise the fifth-year option on first-round picks, which fully guarantees the player’s salary even in the event of injury. Teams aren’t committed to keeping the player given the option, but, if they don’t release the player before the start of the new league year – the opening of free agency – the contract becomes fully guaranteed.
Under the provisions of the CBA, players taken in the top 10 picks will receive a salary equal to the top 10 highest salaries in the league. For those players taken between picks 11-32, their fifth-year option is the average of the third through 25th highest salaries at their position.
The Saints announced Tuesday that safety Kenny Vaccaro will have his fifth-year option picked up. As the 15th pick, his salary will jump from a base of $1.6 million and a cap number of $2.9 million to a salary of approximately $5.6 million – a hefty bump.
Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman has indicated that while they haven’t made it official yet, the Panthers plan on picking up the fifth-year option on defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.
Why is this news of importance to the Vikings? Because they will have to make the call on three of their players – cornerback Xavier Rhodes, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson..
General manager Rick Spielman’s penchant o sacrifice some of the second day of the draft to move back into the first round was going to call for a receipt.
That day has already come. The Vikings picked up the fifth-year options on both offensive tackle Matt Kalil and safety Harrison Smith from the 2012 draft. This year, they’re facing three and next year they will have to decide on Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater – both of whom currently appear to be no-brainer fifth-year pickup options.
This year’s Gang of Three? That may be a different story. It seems obvious that the Vikings will pick up Rhodes’ fifth-year option. It seems just as obvious that they won’t pick up Patterson’s. Floyd falls somewhere in the middle, with the smart money saying the Vikings will pick up the option.
The inherent problem is that in the three-year period between 2012 and 2014, the Vikings drafted seven players in the first round and need to make the hard decision on who will stay and who will go. Or at least go into free agency.
The one luxury the Vikings have in that regard is that they don’t have to officially commit to any decision until after the draft. While allowing Patterson to become eligible for free agency in 2017 seems etched in stone, the drafting of a wide receiver in the first round would cement that notion.
The Vikings went in for the option choice on both of their picks from 2012. Next year, it seems clear they going to exercise the option of both Barr and Bridgewater. Will they double-down on or before May 3 with Rhodes and Floyd?
Don’t bet against it.