There has been some recent concern around Baltimore that the Ravens are going to lose CB Jimmy Smith after this season because his stellar play is going to price him out of the Ravens’ price range.
These fears, for 2015 at least, are unfounded because the Ravens have already exercised their CBA-mandated “5th Year Option” on Smith’s rookie contract. All players drafted in the 1st round of the draft have a 4-year contract that contains the “5th Year Option”. Pursuant to Article 7, Section 7(f) of the CBA, that option, if exercised, allows the team to retain the player for a 5th year at a salary that is based on the methodology used to calculate the Transition Tag for veteran free agents.
For players chosen in the first 10 picks of the first round, the salary is the Transition Tag number (average of top 10 salaries at that player’s position) as calculated for the player’s 4th year. For players like Smith, who were picked from 11-32 of the first round, the salary is the average of the 3rd through 25th highest salaries at that position for the player’s 4th year. So, while the salary is paid in the player’s 5th year, the calculation is based on the average salaries from the player’s 4th year.
As such, this new 5th Year Option for 1st round draft picks operates sort of like a mini-Transition Tag that allows the team to retain a player for another year, but also allows the player to receive a fairly sizeable salary in return.
In order for a team to exercise the 5th Year Option, the team must do so by May 3rd after the third year of the player’s contract.
On this past April 17th, the Ravens exercised their option on Smith, meaning that he is under contract for 2015 at a salary of $6.898M.
Given how well Smith is currently playing, it is not likely an issue, but it is important to note that the 5th Year Option is guaranteed for “injury only” up until the beginning of the league year for which the option applies.
So, basically, in Smith’s case, the Ravens could release him prior to be beginning of the 2015 league year for either Cap or performance reasons, so long as he is not injured. Once the player is on the team’s roster for the 1st day of the league year of the player’s 5th year, the option salary is fully guaranteed.
Obviously, Smith is not going to be released, and it is more likely that the Ravens will seek to reach a contract extension with Smith sometime next offseason. Given that the Ravens are likely to be very tight against the Cap in 2015, a contract extension for Smith would act to reduce that $6.898M Cap number and provide the team with some much needed Cap relief.
So, there is no fear of Smith not being a Raven next year, and given his current level of play, it would certainly appear to behoove the Ravens to lock up their budding-star CB with a long-term contract extension.