As has been previously written, among the many things that are being altered under the proposed new Collective Bargaining Agreement is the manner in which players are compensated for their fifth-year option seasons. This only applies to first-round picks, of course, since only their rookie contracts come with the option for a fifth season, but in essence, the new CBA if passed would make draft position irrelevant.
Thanks to Pro Football Talk, we now have a breakdown of what the different tiers would be for compensation and how those tiers are triggers, and we also know that the new structure, should the CBA be approved, would be eligible not for the 2017 draft class, whose fifth-year options are due to be exercised in a matter of months, but beginning with the 2018 class, so the first players for the Pittsburgh Steelers it would affect are Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick, both of whom were drafted in the first round that year. For T.J. Watt, he is out of luck as far as the fifth-year option is concerned, but it’s safe to say that the Steelers will be giving him a long-term contract before he would play under it.
In fact, that has been the team’s policy. So far, Bud Dupree is the only player for the team that has ever played through the fifth-year option. Both Cameron Heyward and David DeCastro, the first two players eligible for the fifth-year option, were extended heading into their fifth season. Ryan Shazier surely would have been extended as well had he not been injured in year four. Artie Burns did not have his option picked up, nor did Jarvis Jones in 2013.
The current structure separates the first 10 draft choices from the remaining players in the first round. Those in the top 10 of the draft would receive the equivalent of the average of the top 10 salaries at their position. The remaining draft picks would be compensated at the average of the salaries of the player’s position between 3-25.
Under the new structure, any first-round pick who earns two Pro Bowls in his first three seasons will have his fifth-year option equivalent to the franchise tag. One Pro Bowl gets you the equivalent of the transition tag.
Additionally, there are now playing time elements. If a player plays a cumulation of 75 percent of the snaps over his first three seasons, or at least 50 percent in each, or at least 75 percent in two of the three, his salary is the equivalent of position players 3-20. All other first-round picks who fail to meet any of these criteria will see their salary at the level of the positions players 3-25, which is currently what all players 10-32 make.