There has been no official word and no hurry to get the transaction done, but you can expect the Tennessee Titans to exercise their fifth-year option on left tackle Taylor Lewan.
The window to do so for 2014 first-round picks began the Monday after the 2016 regular season ended, and no official decision has to be made until May 2.
But given that Lewan is in Orlando, Fla., this week for his first Pro Bowl appearance and has developed into one of the top left tackles in the NFL, exercising a fifth-year option to keep him under contract with the Titans through 2018 would seem to be a no-brainer for GM Jon Robinson and the organization.
If and when the Titans exercise the option, then Lewan’s 2018 salary would become guaranteed against injury on the third day of the 2018 league year.
As for salary, Lewan is coming up on the final year of his rookie contract (without the option, of course) that he signed for $11.46 million in 2014. His base salary is $1.986 million for 2017, and he is scheduled to have salary cap number of $3.654 million for the coming season.
The Titans also catch a break in picking up the option in that, under the collective bargaining agreement reached in 2011, the top 10 picks in each draft have their option salary number significantly higher as it reflects the transition tag, whereas picks Nos. 11 through 32 receive an average of the salary of the third through 25th highest paid players at their position. Lewan was selected 11th by the Titans three years ago, putting him in the cheaper category. Last year, the salary for fifth-year option on an offensive lineman in picks 11 through 32 was just over $8.8 million, compared to $11.9 million for top 10 picks. Coincidentally, the Titans declined their option of $11.9 million on guard Chance Warmack, who had been the 10th pick in the 2013 draft. Warmack is set to become a free agent and won’t be returning to the Titans in 2017.
As for Lewan’s situation, the Titans could pick up the option, and then begin negotiating a long-term extension with his agent, Tom Condon, if they wish. That sort of move could be more beneficial in the long run for both Lewan and the Titans.
Since the fifth-year option was started with the 2011 CBA, the Titans have picked up just one player’s fifth-year salary. They declined 2011 first-round pick Jake Locker’s option in 2014, retained wide receiver Kendall Wright through a fifth-year option the next year, and then declined Warmack’s options last spring.
However, with Lewan this year and with quarterback Marcus Mariota and right tackle Jack Conklin in the next two years, the fifth-year pickup for all those players is a likely scenario for the Titans barring injuries before then or an extension being negotiated.