The Optimist’s Take: Stalling On Fifth-Year Option

Jarvis Jones

The Pittsburgh Steelers have, by and large, been on an upward swing over the course of the past two and a half seasons after they missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and failed to win a postseason game in four straight years.

Last season saw them gain that elusive playoff victory, though they came up short with about three minutes left in the Divisional round a week later. Their offense took off, and their defense improved, showing playmaking ability and opportunism.

But there are still a lot of unanswered questions facing the team as we crack into free agency territory. As an exercise, we like to take a stab at some of those questions, presenting arguments for the pros and cons of each side of the coin. This is the optimist’s take on the following question.

Question: It is wise, or useful, for the Steelers to wait on the draft to make a decision on Jarvis Jones’ fifth-year option?

As it currently stands, we are just one day away from the start of the 2016 NFL Draft, which also means that we are just five days away from the deadline for teams to determine whether or not they will exercise the fifth-year options on their former 2013 first-round draft picks.

A handful of teams have already done so, but in the majority of cases, they have not, even if there are many reports of teams anticipating doing so shortly. There are others who had said that they will basically wait and see how the draft plays out before making a final determination on their draft pick.

That almost seemed to be what the Steelers were saying during the Monday press conference in regards the fourth-year outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and the fifth-year meatball hanging over his head. As the 17th-overall pick in that draft, at his position, his option would command a 2017 salary of $8,369,000, which would not be guaranteed except for injury until the start of that league year.

The Steelers were relatively quick to pick up the options of their two previous first-rounders, but it seems that they are waiting until after the draft at this point, unless it happens today, which seems rather unlikely.

As we all know, of course, the landscape at the outside linebacker position beyond this season isn’t very impressive, with James Harrison sure to be in retirement by then. Outside linebacker is a definite need in the draft, but it’s also one that may not be easy to address in this draft with respect to the team’s other needs and regarding how the draft is likely to break.

It is for that reason—the potential difficulty of satisfyingly addressing the position in the draft—that it might make the most sense to delay the decision on Jones’ fifth-year option until after the fact, at which point they can take stock of what they have available to them.

There are pros and cons of exercising the fifth-year option, of course, which will be explored more tomorrow, but the big pro is, of course, that you have the player under contract—regardless of whether or not you think he’s worth the salary. And the Steelers will be in need of players at the position next year, whether that is Jones, a draft pick, or somebody else. If it is Jones, the option assures that.

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