Being an NFL first-round draft pick is an impressive feat for any athlete. The first round is hallowed ground, and it represents the only area of the draft where a player’s rookie contract is fully guaranteed.
First-round picks also come with some additional protections for the teams making them, however. The most notable of those comes in the form of the fifth-year option, created in the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement and further expanded in the new CBA signed last offseason. Whereas the 2011 CBA had only one salary amount available to teams, which depended on where in the first round a player was drafted, the 2020 version now includes escalators based on playing time and Pro Bowl honors.
For the Green Bay Packers, the decision window is open on their 2018 first-round draft pick, cornerback Jaire Alexander. To be fair, it’s really not much of a decision; Alexander is a budding superstar, a shutdown corner who earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2020. The team will almost certainly exercise its 5th-year option on Alexander for the 2022 season, but the price tag that will come along with that option is notable.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero published the 5th-year option values on Wednesday, broken down by performance level and position. Jaire Alexander, as a cornerback who has made one Pro Bowl (2020) in his first three years, will have an option value of $13,294,000.
Had Alexander also made the Pro Bowl in 2019, when he was a second alternate, he would have qualified for the highest escalator, which would have been worth $15.06 million for a cornerback.
A contract of about $13.3 million would put Alexander just outside top-10 cornerback money based on the league’s current deals. The top number for a corner is $20 million per year, which the Rams are paying to Jalen Ramsey. Thus, Alexander, who played like one of the three or four best corners in the game, would still be an excellent value at his option amount. Green Bay would probably then look to sign him to a contract extension sometime during the 2022 season, much the way they did with Kenny Clark last August before heading into his option year.
It’s not a tough decision to make, but at least the Packers now know how much it will cost them to keep their star corner for 2022.