Teams across the NFL have until May 3 to decide whether or not to extend the fifth-year options on their 2011 first-round picks. The New Orleans Saints, owners of two first-rounders from that loaded draft class, are likely to extend at least one of those players, Defensive End Cameron Jordan.
Jordan, coming off his best season as a pro in which he registered 12.5 sacks and represented the Saints in the Pro Bowl, would receive about $6.9 million if and when his option is picked up. Still just 24, the former Cal Golden Bear has his best years ahead of him and is set to return to New Orleans in 2014 as one of the centerpieces of Rob Ryan's defense.
Cameron Jordan was the Saints' top pick in 2011.
The team's other 2011 first-rounder, Running Back Mark Ingram, is less likely to receive such an extension. Ingram's fifth-year option would cost in the neighborhood of $5.2 million, a price the Saints would like to lower via a new contract altogether. Ingram remains a part of the team's future plans, but they would surely like to be able to negotiate a deal at a lower price with the former Heisman Trophy winner.
This spring is the first year that the fifth-year extensions will come into effect, following their addition to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that was formed in the 2011 offseason following the lockout. With most teams expected to hold on to their prized players from that draft class, next season's free agent class likely will not be as star-studded as some of the more recent offseasons.
Players taken in the top-10 of the 2011 class can be optioned at the transition figure of their respective positions. Players taken 11-32 will be subject to the average salary of the third through 25th players at their position. Choosing to take the fifth-year option should come as a no-brainer for most teams, with the opportunity to get the best immediate monetary value now, and face the prospect of negotiating new long-term deals next offseason.
The New Orleans Saints will likely extend the fifth-year option to Cameron Jordan, while allowing Mark Ingram to play out his current deal. The team remains high on the future of both players, though there is a more pressing need to extend Jordan as his on field production suggests a large pay-day could loom down the road. If Ingram can pick up where he left off last season, an extension with the team could lie ahead for him as well, though not at the price that his fifth-year option would tender him.