This offseason wasn’t a banner year for the 2020 first-round rookie class.
All told, only a dozen saw their fifth-year option picked up, while Packers quarterback Jordan Love received a one-year, $22 million extension in its place. The rest were all left without a contract moving forward, including notable names such as Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen, Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jets left tackle Mekhi Becton.
Looking at next year’s fifth-year option candidates, it’s likely more than 12 will see the full length of their rookie deals, but how many exactly? We take our best guess.
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Arizona CardinalsZaven Collins (NO)
Collins was part of a new trend of teams drafting linebackers who double as coverage safeties. The result hasn’t been good. While Collins did rack up 100 tackles last season, it’s hard to see Arizona committing significant money to him without a huge year in new coach Jonathan Gannon’s defensive scheme.
Atlanta FalconsKyle Pitts (YES)
Pitts hasn’t been the world-beater many expected coming out of the University of Florida in 2021. After posting a 1,000-yard season as a rookie, Pitts struggled with the Falcons in ’22, notching 28 receptions for 356 yards and two scores. Still, his athletic profile and upside make his fifth-year option a strong bet.
Baltimore RavensRashod Bateman (NO), Odafe Oweh (NO)
The 2021 class could prove a bust for the Ravens, who had two first-round picks after acquiring one from the Chiefs in the Orlando Brown Jr. trade. Bateman has shown talent but is oft-injured, playing in just 18 games through two seasons. Oweh has been durable but amassed only eight sacks through 32 games.
Both could reverse their futures with good years, but the time is now.
Buffalo BillsGregory Rousseau (YES)
Smart money says the Bills like what they see enough to pay out a fifth-year option on Rousseau. After totaling four sacks as a rookie, Rousseau saw his total double in 2022 while playing opposite Von Miller. There’s a decent chance he cracks double digits for the first time this fall.
Carolina PanthersJaycee Horn (YES)
Horn was drafted to be a shutdown corner for the Panthers, and while he’s yet to earn All-Pro or Pro Bowl status, he’s a nice piece on a young, ascending team. Last year, Horn had three interceptions, seven passes defensed and two tackles for loss across 13 games. He should also benefit from new coordinator Ejiro Evero’s defense.
Chicago BearsJustin Fields (YES)
There’s a world where Fields flops this year, and then the Bears have a tough call on their hands. However, considering all the progress Fields made in his second season, the more likely scenario is that general manager Ryan Poles has an easy decision in front of him. As a second-year quarterback, Fields accounted for 3,385 yards and 25 touchdowns, finishing ninth in MVP balloting.
Cincinnati Bengals:Ja’Marr Chase (YES)
This is one of the easiest calls on the list. Chase has been a star since entering the league, helping the Bengals go to consecutive AFC title games for the first time in franchise history. Through two seasons, the former LSU star has teamed up with college and pro teammate Joe Burrow to amass 2,501 receiving yards and 22 scores.
Cleveland BrownsGreg Newsome II (NO)
So far, Newsome is off to a pretty lackluster career with the Browns. The former Northwestern star hasn’t found his footing in Cleveland’s secondary, registering 15 passes defensed and zero interceptions across two years. However, if Newsome can break out in new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s scheme, things could turn quickly for him.
Dallas CowboysMicah Parsons (YES)
Yes. That’s all we need to say. But if you need more, Parsons is a two-time first-team All-Pro and won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2021. In two seasons with the Cowboys, Parsons has become one of the league’s best players (regardless of position), grabbing 26.5 sacks, forcing six fumbles and notching an absurd 33 tackles for loss.
Denver BroncosPatrick Surtain II (YES)
One of the league’s best corners, Surtain is the Broncos’ top player across their roster. Entering his third season in Denver, the former first-round pick has Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro accolades to his name, along with six interceptions and 24 passes defensed. He’s one of the most well-respected players in the game.
Detroit LionsPenei Sewell (YES)
The Lions spent part of Sewell’s first year figuring out where to play him, but the former Oregon standout has settled in nicely since then. Now a full-time right tackle, Sewell made the Pro Bowl in 2022 and is a key part of one of the league’s top offensive lines. He should be Honolulu blue for a long time to come.
Green Bay PackersEric Stokes (YES)
Stokes had an excellent rookie season for the Packers, and he was on his way to another quality campaign last year before a season-ending ankle injury in November. Paired with Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas, Green Bay has terrific corners to build its defense around. It would be an upset if Stokes stays healthy in 2023 and doesn’t see his option picked up.
Indianapolis ColtsKwity Paye (NO)
Paye is one of the toughest calls to make on this list. He notched 10 sacks through two seasons, improving last year to see his numbers rise in sacks (6) and tackles for loss (10) despite playing in only 12 games. However, his option likely rests on how he plays in 2023 after two promising yet unfulfilling seasons.
Jacksonville JaguarsTrevor Lawrence (YES), Travis Etienne (YES)
These are both easy calls. Lawrence is developing into one of the league’s young, elite quarterbacks. Etienne missed his entire rookie season with a torn Achilles tendon but then rushed for 1,000 yards last year. In coach Doug Pederson’s offense, Etienne will always see the ball, while Lawrence is the obvious engine to it all.
Kansas City ChiefsKadarius Toney (YES)
Toney was drafted by the Giants but traded to the Chiefs in October. With Kansas City, the former Florida star totaled just 171 yards and two receiving touchdowns, but the Chiefs believe he’s going to break out with a full offseason in their scheme. Declaring Kansas City will pick up Toney’s option is both a bet on his talent and also an understanding of how the team views him.
Los Angeles ChargersRashawn Slater (YES)
Slater was injured for most of last season with a torn pec and was limited to three games. However, when healthy, Slater was a Pro Bowler as a rookie and showed that same form before being sidelined in 2022. Provided he’s on the field, the left tackle is a sure bet to see his fifth-year option exercised.
Miami DolphinsJaylen Waddle (YES), Jaelan Phillips (YES)
The Dolphins had two first-round selections in 2021 and didn’t miss on either. Waddle has become one of the league’s premier receivers, pairing with Tyreek Hill to form a fearsome tandem. Last year, Waddle caught 75 passes for 1,356 yards and eight touchdowns. As for Phillips, he’s developed into a fine pass-rusher with 15.5 sacks in two campaigns.
Minnesota VikingsChristian Darrisaw (YES)
The Vikings have been hit-and-miss in recent years with picking offensive linemen in the first round, but Darrisaw was an unquestionable hit. Minnesota watched the tackle dominate on quarterback Kirk Cousins’s blindside. The only question is health, with eight games missed across Darrisaw’s first two years. He should remain a fixture with the Vikings for another contract or two.
New England PatriotsMac Jones (NO)
Jones was decent as a rookie but struggled mightily last year, throwing for 14 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. The Patriots are now giving Jones his third coordinator in as many seasons with Bill O’Brien, who is tasked with reviving the former Alabama star. However, Jones and O’Brien don’t have much to work with on the outside, making the task tougher.
New Orleans SaintsPayton Turner (NO)
There’s no argument for the Saints to pick up Turner’s option, barring a shocking 2023 campaign. Through two seasons, the defensive end has played in 13 games, totaling 28 tackles, eight tackles for loss and three sacks. He’s been nothing more than a rotational role player despite significant promise coming out of Houston as the No. 28 pick.
New York JetsZach Wilson (NO), Alijah Vera-Tucker (YES)
It’s impossible to make a case for Wilson to stay past four seasons. He’s been awful, yanked for Mike White and Joe Flacco, and now replaced by Aaron Rodgers. As for Vera-Tucker, the Jets found a quality guard whose only issue has been durability, missing 11 games throughout his first two seasons.
Philadelphia EaglesDeVonta Smith (YES)
Smith has been a star since entering the league as a lithe receiver from Alabama. (At the combine in 2021, Smith measured in at 6'0", 166 pounds.) Since entering the NFL, Smith has totaled 2,112 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns, helping Philadelphia win the NFC title last season. Having Smith teamed with A.J. Brown, the Eagles have an elite duo for years to come.
Pittsburgh SteelersNajee Harris (YES)
Harris entered Pittsburgh as one of the more ballyhooed running backs in recent years, and he hasn’t disappointed. Although Harris has averaged only 3.9 yards per carry throughout his career, the former Crimson Tide star notched a pair of 1,000-yard seasons, highlighted by 14 rushing touchdowns. Expect Harris with the Steelers for at least five years.
San Francisco 49ersTrey Lance (NO)
Lance has spent two years with the 49ers and has thrown 102 passes, completing 54.9% of his attempts with five touchdowns and three interceptions. With Brock Purdy having emerged, Lance needs to drastically step up or face the real possibility of being out of San Francisco without seeing a fifth year.
Tampa Bay BuccaneersJoe Tryon-Shoyinka (NO)
Tryon-Shoyinka came to the Buccaneers after Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl with a wealth of pass-rushers, led by Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett. With Pierre-Paul gone last year, Tryon-Shoyinka had an opportunity to prove his worth but ultimately totaled only four sacks with six tackles for loss. It’s not enough to earn a fifth year in Tampa Bay.
Tennessee TitansCaleb Farley (NO)
Coming out of college, the big concern about Farley was whether he could hold up physically. Through two seasons, he’s played 12 games for the Titans. Unless Farley somehow stays healthy for 17 games—and shows the talent many believe he once had—new Tennessee general manager Ran Carthon will likely move on.
Washington CommandersJamin Davis (NO)
Davis is an interesting case. He’s been a solid linebacker for the Commanders to begin his career, amassing 180 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and four sacks. However, he’s not a pass rusher or someone who makes a consistent impact, despite playing 85% of the snaps last season. A good season could change things, but as we sit here, it’s unlikely his option is picked up.