When the NFL reached an agreement with the NFLPA in 2011, the Collective Bargaining Agreement included a rule provisioning rookie contracts. It was everyone’s goal to address soaring rookie contracts, which were handcuffing struggling teams to such an extent that they were willing to trade a high-value pick just to avoid ridiculous contracts and probable holdouts. There have been subtle negotiations over the years, but most of these deals are pretty standard, inking agreements rather quickly. From a fan’s perspective, this might be the single greatest benefit with the CBA; rookie holdouts were such a nightmare.
Included in the CBA’s handling of rookie contracts, which are all four-year deals, is the option for teams to extend a four-year deal into five years for all first-round picks; those players are paid the average of the top ten paid players at their respective position, which is fully guaranteed when the new league year kicks off in March.
Cincinnati has exercised the fifth-year option for all five of their former first-round picks over the last four years.
However, 2018 could mark the first year that they don’t. Per the Cincinnati Enquirer, the team appears likely to “decline the fifth-year option” with offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi.
And they should.
The Bengals clearly made a mistake using their coveted first-round selection on Ogbuehi, who was recovering from a significant ACL injury at the time. Since becoming the team’s starting right tackle in 2016, replacing Andre Smith, Ogbuehi has been routinely graded as one of the worst offensive tackles in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus, while allowing 16 quarterback sacks. Perhaps his knee is holding him back? Perhaps Paul Alexander held him back and with Frank Pollack, he could strike as a potent weapon.
Regardless, those questions won’t be answered this spring and Cincinnati would be wise to decline the fifth-year option.
Bengals Fifth-Year Options
Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green had his fifth-year option picked up in April 2014, with a scheduled salary worth $10.176 million. However, before he could play under those terms, Green signed a four-year extension through 2019 worth $60 million with $32.75 million guaranteed.
In late April 2015, Cincinnati exercised the fifth-year options for cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and offensive guard Kevin Zeitler. Kirkpatrick received $7.5 million; Zeitler earned $8 million. Both players played under their fifth-year terms. Zeitler left for Cleveland after 2016 and Kirkpatrick signed a five-year deal during the first day of free agency in 2017 worth $52.5 million.
In mid-April 2016, the Bengals triggered the fifth-year option for tight end Tyler Eifert worth $4.782 million. He’s now been signed to a one-year deal in his sixth NFL season and will hit free agency again in 2019.
Finally, last year, the team exercised the fifth-year option for cornerback Darqueze Dennard, who will earn $8.526 million in 2018.
The deadline for the Bengals to exercise Ogbuehi’s fifth year option is Thursday, May 3.