The deadline to pick up the fifth-year options on 2017 first round draft picks is quickly approaching and the teams in the AFC North have already made their decisions.
EDGE Myles Garrett
Myles Garrett has been impressive for the Browns in his first three seasons. In 37 games, Garrett has accumulated 30.5 sacks and a total of 65 quarterback hits.
Unfortunately his 2019 season was cut short when he got tangled up with Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Mason Rudolph and struck Rudolph with his own helmet. Myles was suspended for the remainder of the NFL season and subsequently has been reinstated by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
TE David Njoku
There was a lot of debate among Browns fans if the Browns were going to pick up David Njoku’s fifth-year option. Browns General Manager and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Andrew Berry said all off-season that Njoku was in the long-term plans of the Browns. This off-season the Browns signed free-agent TE Austin Hooper to a four year, $42-million contract.
Njoku played in all 32 games in his first two seasons but was injured or inactive for 12 games last season. In those four games, he had five receptions for 41 yards and one touchdown. One positive for Njoku is that new Browns’ Head Coach Kevin Stefanski used two tight ends in the majority of his formations while with Minnesota so even with the signing of Austin Hooper, Njoku should be a factor in the Browns’ offense.
WR John Ross
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Cincinnati Bengals decided not to pick up WR John Ross’ fifth-year option. Ross was a star at the 2017 NFL Combine when he broke the 40-yard dash record with a 4.22. His speed propelled Ross up the draft boards and he was the third receiver taken in the 2017 draft by the Bengals with the tenth overall pick.
Ross unfortunately has been oft-injured during his tenure with the Bengals appearing in only 24 games in his first three seasons. He caught 26 passes in 2019 for 506 yards, 22 of those receptions were for first downs. There is no doubt that John Ross possesses elite speed, but the oft-injured wide receiver needs to be available to play. The Bengals drafted another wide receiver with the 33rd pick in the draft, Tee Higgins, which could be a factor if Ross is there long term.
CB Marlon Humphrey
Marlon Humphrey, another Alabama football standout, had his fifth-year option picked up by the Baltimore Ravens. There was zero doubt that the Ravens would pick up the option on the former 16th overall pick. Humphrey played in all but two games for the Ravens since being drafted.
Humphrey made the Pro Bowl and was selected First-Team All-Pro by the Associated Press in 2019. The Ravens secondary is full of impressive talent and Humphrey is part of that. In 2019, the Ravens gave up the second-least passing touchdowns only surrendering 15 touchdowns by air.
EDGE T.J. Watt
Another non-surprise here as the Pittsburgh Steelers picked up the fifth-year option on T.J. Watt. In his first three seasons, Watt has made two Pro-Bowls and was selected First-Team All-Pro by the Associated Press, Pro-Football Writers and Sporting News in 2019.
In three seasons, Watt has accumulated 34.5 sacks, 70 quarterback hits and has forced 12 fumbles. In six games against the Browns, Watt has nine sacks, including three in week one of the 2018 season that ended in a tie. It will be curious to see what kind of extension that the Steelers’ front office will give Watt. The Steelers will most likely have a rookie quarterback soon so paying players such as Watt and Bud Dupree should not be a problem.