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

The 2011 CBA introduced the fifth-year option, and teams have taken advantage of the flexibility with first-round picks throughout its existence. Despite the options being guaranteed for injury only from 2014 — the first year this contract clause came into play — until 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:

2020 draft:

2021 draft:

The Cowboys and Vikings, respectively, did not extend Justin Jefferson and CeeDee Lamb last year, keeping an under-the-radar streak involving receivers intact. But the Eagles broke new ground by giving Smith an early deal, making him the first Round 1 wideout in the option era to receive an extension with two years of rookie-deal control remaining.

Although Jordan Love signed a deal that extended his contract through 2024, the 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 have been 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.

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 lead the pack through 10 option-era offseasons.

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