Early Extensions For First-Rounders In The Fifth-Year Option Era

The Vikings are preparing to extend Justin Jefferson, but with the recently exercised fifth-year option tying the superstar wide receiver to Minnesota through the 2024 season, history points to the team attempting to wait until his contract year before doing a new deal. Teams have largely operated this way in the fifth-year option era.

Since the 2011 CBA introduced the fifth-year option, 190 players have seen their options picked up. Despite the options being guaranteed for injury only from 2014 — the first year this contract clause came into play — through 2020, teams did not act aggressively to extend players early. Here are the first-round picks in the option era to be signed to extensions with two years of team control remaining:

2011 draft:

2012 draft:

2013 draft:

2015 draft:

2016 draft:

2017 draft:

2018 draft:

2019 draft:

Although Jordan Love signed a deal that extends his contract through 2024, the new Packers starter’s new contract does not run beyond the point where his fifth-year option would have gone.

Nearly a third of the players to sign early extensions were quarterbacks. Tannehill, Watson and Wentz did not receive another extension from their respective teams, being traded before the respective contracts expired — in Watson’s case, before the new years even started. Highlighting the Vikings’ potential Jefferson issue, no first-round wideouts or tight ends have been fourth-year extension recipients in the option era.

The 2014 draft saw a record 23 options exercised, but no member of the stellar first-round group — headlined by Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack and Zack Martin — saw a payday come until 2018. While Donald waited until Year 5, Rams also have shown a steady interest — both during and before Sean McVay‘s tenure — in extending first-rounders after three years. Their four such extensions leads the pack through 10 option-era offseasons.

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