The San Francisco 49ers announced on Monday that they had exercised their team option on Jimmie Ward’s rookie contract. Ward was signed through 2017, and the option signs him through 2018. Even though he is moving to free safety, Ward will earn the cornerback option salary (approximately $8.526 million) because he played his third year snaps at cornerback.
Ward was one of 23 first round picks from the 2014 NFL draft to have his option exercised. Three of the remaining players were released at some point before their option came up, including Cleveland Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert and quarterback Johnny Manziel, and New England Patriots defensive tackle Dominique Easley.
The remaining six players in the first round saw their options declined for one reaosn or another. That list includes:
OT Greg Robinson, Rams
WR Sammy Watkins, Bills
CB Kyle Fuller, Bears
S Calvin Pryor, Jets
DE Marcus Smith, Eagles
QB Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings
Injuries are a factor in some of these decisions. The fifth year option is guaranteed for injury when it is exercised, and becomes fully guaranteed at the start of the new league year for that fifth season.
Teddy Bridgewater is the most intriguing of this group. He is expected to open the season on the Physically Unable To Perform list following his knee injury last year. Article 20, Section 2 of the CBA says that if a player is in the last year of his contract and spends the first six games on the PUP list, his contract will toll. That means if Bridgewater spends the year on the PUP list, he will remain under contract in 2018, even without the option exercised.
There are some intriguing names on that list, with Sammy Watkins probably the most interesting. He is recovering from foot surgery, and clearly the Bills are worried he could aggravate the injury and see the option salary become fully guaranteed. If he has a completely healthy year and puts up the numbers he is capable of, Buffalo probably franchises him. But until we get to next offseason, his is going to be an interesting situation to follow.