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Report: Fifth-year options on first round picks could lead to franchise tag money with new CBA

Pay the men!

We’re still a long ways away to a new labor deal between the NFL and the NFLPA, but Pro Football Talk reports of a new wrinkle in the deal concerning the fifth-year option and the franchise tag:

Per multiple sources, the proposed CBA would give first-round picks an escape hatch from the fifth-year option as currently calculated. If a first-round pick makes it to the Pro Bowl twice in his first three seasons, the amount of the fifth-year option would spike to the franchise tag for his position.

In case you’re wondering, that would make a salary on someone like Jalen Ramsey who had a $13.7 million fifth-year option go up to $16.4.

When you see how careers can end in the blink of an eye, it makes sense that the players are trying to get as much money in their short careers as possible. That said, adding franchise tag money to fifth-year options is going to really hamstring things on the NFL’s salary cap. The San Francisco 49ers would be unable to keep some of their fifth year players if they got franchise tag money on that fifth-year option, no matter how slim of a difference.

Don’t misunderstand, getting more money to players deserving, like the scenario above is a good thing, but it makes keeping a team together all the more difficult.

I know some are going to say this would further muddy things, but I would disagree. Contracts are broken by teams all the time, which is why you see so much guaranteed money. In this situation, players need (and deserve) every penny if they pass the incentives outlined above.

But I’ll go back to the salary cap. I think another rule to go into play with this should be numbers not counting against the salary cap and this is one of those situations. A team should be obligated to pay this money in year five with little worry of it causing issues with the cap. If a rule was in place that this type of money were to be paid out, but the extra would not count against the salary cap, this is a no-brainer. It makes sure players who have made the Pro Bowl are taken care of and it also keeps things manageable for the team’s contract experts. I’ve gone as far to say if a draft pick is up for an extension that a certain percentage of their extension should not count against the cap—that is my version of the hometown discount, the privilege of the team not only being able to pay the player what they are worth, but both being awarded for sticking together. Will it happen? Nope, never. The NFL is a parity league after all.