Today is the deadline for NFL teams to make valid the fifth-year option held by players selected in the first round of the 2018 Draft, or else they will be free agents beginning in 2022.
The Bills have been negotiating a long-term deal with their quarterback Josh Allen, and with this move they buy time to keep negotiations open with him and the linebacker, who by validating the fifth-year option on their rookie contract guarantees them a salary higher than what they earned in their first NFL seasons.
In Josh Allen's case, the structure of the contract he signed in his first year in the NFL is:
|Year||Base Salary||Signing bonus||Roster bonus|
Contract structure for Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen / Source: spotrac.com/
The fifth-year option means for players that the salary that was not guaranteed in their contract for their fourth NFL season is guaranteed to them and an amount is set for the fifth year, which should be equal to the transition tag for players picked in the first 10 Draft picks and for the rest of the first round it is an average of the top 20 highest paid players at their position. It's an opportunity for players to have a juicy paycheck and for teams like the Bills it helps them buy time to negotiate a second contract for key players.
In the event that teams decide not to exercise or not to exercise the fifth-year option, it opens the door for players to test the free agency market.
The Cowboys did not exercise Vender Esch's fifth-year contract option.
That's the situation for Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch, who the team notified his agent that they will not exercise his fifth-year contract option. The decision comes after the team focused much of its 2021 draft capital on drafting defensive players, including LB Micah Parsons with its first pick in the draft, with the 12th overall pick.
Contrary to the Bills' decision to buy time, it is clear to the Cowboys that Vander Esch was a good player, but badly hit by injuries, so they are not committed to negotiating a second contract with him.
|Player||Position||Team||5th year option|
|Baker Mayfield||QB||Browns||Cleveland made it valid on April 23: he will earn $18.8 million in 2022.|
|Saquon Barkley||RB||Giants||New York executed it on April 28 at a base salary of $7.2 million in 2022.|
|Sam Darnold||QB||Jets||He was traded to the Panthers, who made it valid; he will earn $18.8 million in 2022.|
|Denzel Ward||CB||Browns||Clevelan made the option valid on April 23, with a base salary of 13.2 million in 2022.|
|Bradley Chubb||DE||Broncos||Denver exercised the option at a base salary of $12.7 million.|
|Quenton Nelson||G||Colts||Indianapolis exercised the option and Nelson will have a base salary of $13.7 million.|
|Josh Allen||QB||Bills||Buffalo exercised the option on May 3, with a base salary of $23 million.|
|Roquan Smith||LB||Bears||Chicago exercised the option, with a base salary of $9.7 million.|
|Mike McGlinchey||T||49ers||San Francisco exercised it on May 1, with a base salary of $10.8 million.|
|Josh Rosen||QB||Cardinals||Has not established himself in the NFL. Traded to the Dolphins and cut. He is in San Francisco.|
|Minkah Fitzpatrick||S||Dolphins||He was traded to the Steelers, who made it good at a salary of $10.6 million.|
|Vita Vea||DT||Buccaneers||Tampa Bay exercised the option on April 26. At a base salary of $7.6 million.|
|Daron Payne||DT||Washington Football Team||Washington made it valid on April 27. He has a salary of $8.5 million.|
|Marcus Davenport||DE||Saints||New Orleans exercised it on April 29, at a base salary of $9.5 million.|
|Kolton Miller||T||Raiders||He signed a 3-year, $54 million contract extension on March 31.|
|Tremaine Edmunds||LB||Bills||Buffalo grafted it this May 3, at the cap, at a salary of $12.7 million.|
|Derwin James||S||Chargers||The Los Angeles team exercised it on April 30. He will have a salary of 9 million.|
|Jaire Alexander||CB||Packers||Green Bay exercised it, with a base salary of $13.2 million.|
|Leighton Vander Esch||LB||Cowboys||Dallas will not exercise it, so he will be a free agent in 2022.|
|Frank Ragnow||OL||Lions||Detroit exercised the option on April 28, at a salary of $12.6 million.|
|Billy Price||CB||Bengals||Cincinnati did not make it valid, so he will be a free agent in 2022.|
|Rashaan Evans||LB||Titans||Tennessee declined the option and will look to sign a long-term contract or become a free agent.|
|Isaiah Wynn||T||Patriots||New England's decision is pending.|
|D.J.Moore||WR||Panthers||Carolina exercised it on April 30. He will have a salary of $11.1 million in 2022.|
|Hayden Hurst||TE||Ravens||Baltimore traded him to Atlanta, who declined the option and he will be a free agent next year|
|Calvin Ridley||WR||Falcons||Atlanta exercised it this day, and the WR will have a base salary of 11.1 million in 2022.|
|Rashaad Penny||RB||Seahawks||Seattle declined the option, and the RB will be a free agent in 2022.|
|Terrell Edmunds||S||Steelers||Pittsburgh will not make it valid so he will hit the free agency market.|
|Taven Bryan||DT||Jaguars||Jacksonville's decision is pending.|
|Mike Hughes||CB||Vikings||Minnesota will not make it valid; he will be a free agent next year.|
|Sony Michel||RB||Patriots||They have not yet decided, and today is the deadline.|
|Lamar Jackson||QB||Ravens||Baltimore exercised it on April 30, so Lamar will have a base salary of $23 million.|