Why Chase Young, Mekhi Becton and other 2020 NFL Draft picks had their fifth-year option declined
Why Chase Young, Mekhi Becton and other 2020 NFL Draft picks had their fifth-year option declined
Why Chase Young, other 2020 NFL Draft picks had fifth-year option declined

Some get contracts, others get contract years. 

The fifth-year option is something of a calculated risk for NFL teams. For players with a positive track record, the fifth-year option is a cost-effective measure to keep young players under a team-friendly deal for an extra season. For those who haven't quite lived up to the hype, it offers them a contract year to set themselves up for a major payday.

This year, a reported record 20 players didn't have their options picked up for a number of reasons, all explained below. An option being declined isn't a death knell on an NFL career, nor does it mean the door is closed on a player returning to a team. Look no further than Daniel Jones. 

Jones had his fifth-year option declined in 2021, and on a contract year in 2022, cashed in on a big one with the Giants. Other players who had their fifth-year option turned down this year could look at it as an opportunity to hit the market and cash in in a big way.

MORE: NFL fifth-year option tracker — Value for fifth-year contracts and more

Here's why some notable players had their fifth-year option declined entering the 2022 season:

Why Chase Young's fifth-year option was declined

Young was arguably the most surprising of the list to have his fifth-year option declined, but there's a reason for it. Young tore his ACL in Week 10 of the 2021 season, sidelining him for over a year. 

He returned to the field in late 2022 to help the Commanders push for the playoffs, but didn't tally a sack. He accounted for just seven total pressures across the three games, as well, over 114 total snaps. 

Throw it all together, and that means Young is going to have to stay healthy and produce this year at a shot at staying with Washington, or to sign a big deal elsewhere.

MORE: More details on the Commanders declining Chase Young's option

Why Mekhi Becton's fifth-year option was declined

The best ability is availability, and Becton has played just 48 total snaps since his rookie season. He injured his knee in Week 1 of the 2021 season after a collision with another Jets offensive lineman. The team originally said Becton would be back on the field in 4-to-6 weeks, but he ended up missing the entire season.

In training camp in 2022, Becton suffered an avulsion fracture to the same knee, though the injuries were unrelated. He landed on IR and missed the entirety of the 2022 season.

With his playing weight an ongoing discussion, Becton has seemingly worked himself back into shape ahead of the 2023 season, and now he'll have to prove he can stay in shape and healthy to set himself up for a new contract following the season.

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NFL fifth-year options declined in 2023

Of the 2020 NFL Draft class, here's why the rest of the first round had their options declined or were ineligible to have them picked up:

  • Pick No. 3, Jeff Okudah (Falcons)

Okudah was originally a draft pick of the Lions and was traded to the Falcons in 2023, but had his contract reworked on the deal, hence he wasn't eligible to have his fifth-year option picked up.

  • Pick No. 8, Isaiah Simmons (Cardinals)

Simmons was something of a victim of circumstance. A hybrid player, Simmons never found a true home in Arizona's defense, as he was moved around quite a bit in his first three years in the league. Simmons has an opportunity to reinvent himself again in Jonathan Gannon's defense — something that worked well for former Cardinal and current Eagle Haason Reddick under Gannon in 2022.

  • Pick No. 9, C.J. Henderson (Panthers)

Originally drafted by the Jaguars, Henderson hasn't quite lived up to top-10 hype since he was traded to the Panthers in 2021. He did notch two interceptions this past season, doubling his career total. He also dealt with injuries throughout his career. Perhaps adding to the decision was the fact that the Panthers decided to pick up DT Derrick Brown's option, leaving less money under the cap in the coming years.

  • Pick No. 12, Henry Ruggs III (Raiders)

The Raiders released Ruggs in 2021 after his involvement in a crash that killed a 23-year-old woman and her dog. He's currently awaiting sentencing and faces up to 10 years in prison.

  • Pick No. 14, Javon Kinlaw (49ers)

As is the case with NFL players, the best ability is availability. Kinlaw played in just four games in 2021 and six games in 2022 while dealing with issues on his right knee. He also missed two games in 2020. 

  • Pick No. 18, Austin Jackson (Dolphins)

One of Miami's three first-round draft picks in 2020, Jackson failed to develop into a quality tackle for the Dolphins. In three years, Jackson posted PFF pass blocking grades of 54.6, 49.1 and 53.3. Jackson also suffered an ankle injury that limited him to just two games in 2022.

  • Pick No. 19, Damon Arnette (Raiders)

The Raiders released Arnette after an Instagram video of him pointing guns and making death threats to an unknown male surfaced. He is currently a free agent. 

  • Pick No. 20, K'Lavon Chaisson (Jaguars)

Chaisson never developed into the pass rusher the Jags expected, notching just three sacks through three seasons with Jacksonville. That, coupled with an edge room that has both Josh Allen and Travon Walker and a knee injury that limited him in 2022, made it an easy decision for Jacksonville.

  • Pick No. 21, Jalen Reagor (Vikings) 

Reagor was originally picked by the Eagles and shipped to the Vikings, but never quite lived up to first-round receiver potential at either spot. Reagor's career-high 396 receiving yards came in his rookie season. He has just four receiving touchdowns across three years in the NFL.

  • Pick No. 23, Kenneth Murray (Chargers)

First-round linebackers are always a risk, and Murray is an example of that. Murray was a below-average run defender and a poor tackler across three years with the Chargers, making for an easy decision for L.A. brass.

  • Pick No. 24, Cesar Ruiz (Saints)

Ruiz was a below-average interior offensive lineman across 46 games with the Saints, and the $14.1 million guaranteed number was likely too rich for New Orleans in Year 5. He posted a below-average 56.6 PFF grade in 2022. 

  • Pick No. 26, Jordan Love (Packers)

The Packers and Love worked out a one-year contract extension in place of the fifth-year option. The new money is about half of the fifth-year option's guaranteed value, making a pretty big win for the Packers.

MORE: Why Packers negotiated one-year deal with Love instead of picking up fifth-year option

  • Pick No. 27, Jordyn Brooks (Seahawks)

Brooks was a tackling machine for the Seahawks, but an ACL injury suffered on Jan. 1 this year means he will miss most, if not all, of the 2023 season. That, coupled with a guaranteed salary of $12.7 million meant it was a risky proposition for Seattle.

  • Pick No. 28, Patrick Queen (Ravens)

Queen has been durable, starting in every game he's played since he was drafted in 2020, and he looked solid next to Roquan Smith, who the Ravens acquired during the 2022 season. That said, Baltimore also drafted Trenton Simpson on Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft, making Queen expendable.

  • Pick No. 29, Isaiah Wilson (Titans)

Because of reported character issues, Wilson was something of a risky pick for Tennessee in 2020. He was arrested for DUI in September 2020, and in January 2021, led police on an 140 mph car chase. He was traded to the Dolphins for a seventh-round pick in 2021 and was waived just three days later. He is currently a free agent and hasn't played since his rookie season, playing three snaps total in his NFL career.

  • Pick No. 30, Noah Igbinoghene (Dolphins)

The last of Miami's trio of first rounders in 2020, Igbinoghene has been both ineffective and injured throughout his three seasons in Miami. He was considered something of a reach when he was drafted, and has been outperformed by the rest of the Dolphins CB room in years prior.

  • Pick No. 31, Jeff Gladney (Vikings)

Gladney was released by the Vikings following domestic assault allegations in 2021, later signing with the Cardinals in March 2022. He was later found not guilty of the charges. Gladney and his girlfriend were killed in a car crash in May 2022.

  • Pick No. 32, Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Chiefs)

Much like linebackers, running backs in the first round are often a question of value. Edwards-Helaire was a luxury pick for the Chiefs, who were coming off a Super Bowl win. Injuries derailed his career, along with others on the chart outperforming him, leading to his option being declined. 

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