Jerry Jeudy, the Denver Broncos' 2020 first-round pick, is entering what some might see as a "prove it" season. After a solid rookie campaign, there were high expectations for Jeudy for the 2021 season.
Unfortunately, a high ankle sprain in the Week 1 game sidelined Jeudy for six weeks. He had been off to a good start with six receptions on seven targets for 72 yards before he left the game.
But between the Broncos' struggles on offense and Jeudy not getting back to full strength, he had just 32 receptions on 49 targets in nine games (he didn't play in Week 17).
With the Broncos having traded for Russell Wilson, Jeudy now healthy, and charges in a domestic dispute having been dropped, the hope is that Jeudy will be in line for a quality season — and that's important because in 2023, the Broncos will decide on whether or not to exercise his fifth-year option.
When the rookie pay scale was first introduced, fifth-year options were based on a player's position and at what point in the first round he was drafted. The option was also injury-only guaranteed, but a player could be cut for skill or cap reasons even if the option was exercised
That's changed, with the option now fully guaranteed and the amount determined based on playing time and Pro Bowl selections. Here's how it works:
- A base salary is determined by the average of the third to 25th highest salaries at the position over five seasons.
- If a player reaches a certain snap count, that salary is determined by the average of the third to 20th highest salaries at the position over five seasons.
- One Pro Bowl berth on the original ballot (not as an alternate) means the fifth-year option is the same as the transition tag at the position, while two such Pro Bowl berths would mean that the option is the same as the franchise tag.
The fifth-year option amount is determined by what the player does in his first three seasons. A player cannot get more money for any accomplishments in his fourth season.
Knowing this, what is the likelihood that Jeudy will get his fifth-year option exercised? While we don't know what the amount will be for 2023, we can get an idea based on what the amounts were for 2022.
The base amount for wide receiver fifth-year options in 2022 was $12.4 million, while those who reached snap counts would get $13.4M. For one Pro Bowl, it was $16.7M, and for two Pro Bowls, it was $18.4M.
We know Jeudy will not be eligible for the highest possible amount. What remains to be seen is what Jeudy does in 2022 to determine what the amount will be.
If Jeudy makes the Pro Bowl on the original ballot in 2022, he will be in line for more money, but it's more likely the Broncos will exercise the option. While Pro Bowl berths may be overrated, you have to be performing at a high level to get consideration.
However, even if Jeudy doesn't make the Pro Bowl on the original ballot, that doesn't mean the Broncos don't exercise the option. If he has a quality season and the option comes in between $14M and $15M, it would be fine to exercise the option and keep him at a reasonable cost.
What will make the Broncos more likely to decline the option is if Jeudy fails to perform at a high level in 2022. If he plays all 17 games but doesn't perform any better than his rookie season, he won't be worth the option.
But if Jeudy can turn in reception numbers as he did in the 2021 season opener, he's likely to have a stat line that gets his option exercised. If he plays all 17 games and averages six receptions per game, that would put him at 102 receptions for the season — a number that would have put him just outside the top-10 for 2021, behind Stefon Diggs and Hunter Renfrow, who each had 103 receptions.
It's not unreasonable to think that Jeudy could reach 90 receptions if he plays well. When Russell Wilson was healthy all 16 games in 2020, his top two receivers, Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, had 100 and 83 receptions, respectively.
For Jeudy to get the fifth-year option exercise, he doesn't have to make the Pro Bowl. He simply has to be productive — and if the Broncos improve offensively, it stands to reason that Jeudy should be productive. We'll see if he delivers in 2022.
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