Seahawks face decision with Bruce Irvin’s fifth-year option

Apr 13, 2015, 10:50 AM | Updated: 11:00 am
The Seahawks have until May 3 to exercise their fifth-year option on Bruce Irvin, which would come with a $7.8 million price tag for the 2016 season. (AP)
(AP)

Bruce Irvin has become an incredibly solid and occasionally spectacular linebacker in Seattle’s defense.

He was drafted in the first round to be a pass rusher, though.

Irvin may be the best athlete on the Seahawks’ roster, someone who is faster than anyone who’s bigger than him and bigger than anyone who is faster.

He’s also starting on the strongside, putting him in what is typically the least valuable of the three linebacker slots in a defense like Seattle’s.

Those are just some of the complexities that the Seahawks must wade through as they decide whether to exercise their option to add a fifth year to Irvin’s rookie contract.

That option is part of the rookie salary scale instituted in 2011 with the league’s new collective-bargaining agreement. That agreement reduced the size of contracts offered to first-round picks – especially those chosen in the top 10 – but it also lessened the length of those deals to four-year agreements. Teams also got the option of adding a fifth year at the price of the transition tag for that player’s position.

Irvin’s current deal runs through the 2015 season. Seattle can choose to add a fifth year to that deal at a price of $7.8 million at any point before May 3, a day after the NFL Draft ends.

On the one hand, exercising the option seems to be a no-brainer. It’s a short-term commitment that is not totally guaranteed and Irvin has certainly proven to be a starting caliber player. For comparison’s sake, the Jets exercised their fifth-year option on defensive end Quinton Coples, the player they chose the pick after Seattle drafted Irvin. Coples has 16.5 sacks through three seasons, the exact same number as Irvin.

On the other hand, exercising that fifth-year option will make that $7.8 million salary a starting point for any negotiation on an extension with Irvin. Not only that, but Seattle already signed K.J. Wright to a contract with a similar annual average while Bobby Wagner is in line for an extension that figures to turn out even bigger.

How much can Seattle afford to put into its linebackers?

Last year, the Seahawks declined to exercise their fifth-year option on guard James Carpenter. That came with a caveat, though. Carpenter had finished his first two seasons on injured reserve, making his health a concern as the fifth-year option is guaranteed for injury.

Carpenter’s agent responded to Seattle’s decision to decline the option on Twitter, stating, “When you are given a gift, say ‘Thank you.’ ” This offseason, Carpenter signed a deal with the Jets as an unrestricted free agent.

Will Seattle choose a similar path with Irvin? It is the Seahawks’ option after all, and there are still a few weeks before they have to decide whether to exercise it.

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