LOS ANGELES -- One was a sure thing. The other was a bit more complicated. But in the end, the Los Angeles Rams decided to pick up the fifth-year option on both of their 2013 first-round draft picks, linebacker Alec Ogletree and receiver Tavon Austin, a league source confirmed Monday.
The deadline to pick up the options, which ensure that 2013 first-round picks will remain under team control through the 2017 season, was Monday afternoon.
For the Rams, exercising the option on Ogletree was a no-brainer given the relatively low cost of the option and his performance to this point in his career. The decision on Austin was more difficult because, as a top-10 pick, his fifth-year option is more expensive and his production thus far hasn't been commensurate to that price.
It's also worth noting that the fifth-year options are only guaranteed for injury so players with options picked up now could theoretically be released before the start of the next league year when the money becomes guaranteed.
As the No. 30 overall pick in his class, Ogletree is only due the average of the third-through-25th highest salaries at his position. That means Ogletree would be due $8.369 million for the 2017 season. That's a high price but not an outrageous one for a player who led the team in tackles his first two seasons and was an early Pro Bowl candidate before suffering a season ending injury in Week 4 last season.
This year, Ogletree is moving to middle linebacker, where he'll have a chance to become more of a team leader and focal point for coordinator Gregg Williams' group. And, of course, just because the Rams exercised his option doesn't mean they won't try to get a contract extension done with him before he'd play under it.
The Rams and Ogletree's representatives have had some conversations to that end this offseason. Getting a contract extension done with Austin would actually make even more sense than it would for Ogletree, since it would prevent the Rams from having to pay a premium that Austin's numbers wouldn't normally yield.
Since Austin went No. 8 overall in the 2013 draft, he would cost the average of the top-10 receivers in the NFL (or the same as the transition tag), according to NFL rules. For frame of reference, the transition-tag price for a receiver this year was $12.268 million. Barring a major breakout in 2016, that is well above what Austin's production (to this point in his career) should garner.
But a league source said last week that the Rams were "leaning toward" exercising Austin's option with the idea of securing his services and hammering out a contract in the meantime. That would be the plan now that the option has been picked up.
At February's combine, general manager Les Snead said the Rams would like to keep Austin in the fold.
"What he brings to the table as a weapon on offense and what our coaches can do... and we’ve hired a couple of new coaches and they come in to the building with excitement because of what they think he can do to help your team," Snead said. "And also on special teams. He’s a valuable piece. He’s an offensive weapon so we’ll try to figure [that] out. He’s somebody we want for the future."
Either way, the Rams have made a point of drafting and developing their own players and now they find themselves needing to keep those players around for the long-term.
"We would like to do that," Snead said. "You know the philosophy is to draft, develop and re-sign your own core group of guys. So there’s some guys following this class that we’d like to get done as well over the next few months."