All former 2021 first round draft picks have a May 2 deadline for their respective teams to pick up their coveted fifth-year options. These can be used as a leverage tool in contract negotiations but mostly used to reward the player for their efforts and will pay them a fair value in the final year of their rookie deal.
The last NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement brought all first-round contracts to garner a fifth-year option. These can be exercised or not exercised by the respective franchises. The amount of money is not based on the pick of the draft but of the position of that player. It is also based on the amount of playing time they achieved and accolades (specifically Pro Bowl designations) they accrue during their rookie contract. The more playing time and Pro Bowl selections, the money they can make (maxing at franchise tender money) based on their position.
The biggest key to the fifth-year option is what every player wants; that final year (and any subsequent money in year four that has not been paid out) becomes fully guaranteed from a money standpoint.
The Indianapolis Colts will have to make this decision for their 2021 first-round pick Kwity Paye. Kwity Paye stands to make approximately $13.8 million dollars if the Colts were to pick up his fifth-year option. This places him on the lower end since he has made zero Pro Bowls in his career. The number would put him in the top-25 paid edge rushers in the NFL, however. It would put him in line with such notable players (via 2023 contracts) as Patriots Matthew Judon, Eagles Josh Sweat and Broncos Randy Gregory (before his release). These are all big names pass rushers who are on their second or third NFL contract with proven results.
What should Colts do with Kwity Paye?
With the decision deadline looming, multiple factors will need to be taken into consideration before the option is picked up. Do the Colts view Kwity Paye as a top-25 edge rusher in the league? Can the Colts draft someone of equal or better value for a cheaper rate? Is his career high in sacks this season the key reason to pick up the option?
When you look at the top pass rushers in the NFL currently you think about names like TJ Watt, Myles Garrett, and Nick Bosa. While these guys are always getting their sacks on the quarterback, the key aspect they have is game disruption. They not only get to the opposing quarterbacks, they disrupt them and make offensive coordinators lose sleep over getting protections right. They are also closers and make that big sacks or tackles for loss to close out a close game.
While Paye has seen a gradual increase in production in each season, is it enough for the franchise to pick up his option? The answer is No. Paye has seen his sack and tackle totals increase every season, but he has not been that game wrecker the Colts have been looking for since the days of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Paye was second on the team this season with 8.5 sacks, but we saw a lot of inconsistency with pressures and game changing plays.
With the strong class in the upcoming draft for pass rush, the Colts might be able to find a cheaper and equally (or better option) in April. The Colts can still re-sign him even if they don’t pick up his option; they just allow him into free agency a year early. Maybe not picking up the fifth-year option will be the motivation that Kwity Paye needs to continue to work on his craft and earn another contract.