The Pessimist’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 pessimist’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?

Recently, the Steelers have made indications that they do not intend to address the question of exercising the fifth-year option on outside linebacker Jarvis Jones’s rookie contract under after the draft, and by this point, just 14 hours until the draft begins, that seems like a reasonably safe assumption. The deadline for exercising the option is May 2.

But what incentive is there to wait? Shouldn’t it be known by now whether or not it is in the team’s best interest to exercise Jones option? The argument in favor of waiting until after the draft is, of course, to reevaluate the position assuming that they have added to it during the draft.

But whether or not a player is added, to me, should not have a great bearing on whether or not it makes sense to pick up the option. What matters is how he plays during the 2016 season. He either plays in a way that would merit the option salary, or a ballpark-comparable extension figure, or he doesn’t.

It is, from my perspective, right now more about a belief than it is about information-gathering. You already have all the information that you can gather right now with respect to projecting what Jones is capable of doing on the field until he actually gets back out on the field, and either you think he can reach the level of play that would justify the salary or you don’t.

If you think he can reach that level, then you exercise the extension knowing that if he doesn’t live up to it, you would have to release him before the start of the 2017 league year in order to clear that money off the books.

If you don’t think he can reach that level, then you have to let him play out his last season, and re-evaluate his worth heading into next offseason to determine whether or not you can work out an extension from a starting point that is lower than what the fifth-year option value would be.

Neither of these hinge on whether or not the Steelers add a player, because if Jones plays at a level in 2016 that justifies him being a starter, then he will be a starter, and the team will simply have depth at the outside linebacker position.

They are not likely to pay him over $8 million even if they have nobody else if they only expect to get two sacks regardless of what happens in the draft. Recall comments regarding Jason Worilds last offseason about not wanting to pay a player $1 million per sack. They were willing to let him walk for less in spite of him showing much more.

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