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Safe bet that Rams pick up Michael Brockers' option

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- After the St. Louis Rams signed defensive tackle Nick Fairley last week, some wondered what it might mean for Michael Brockers' future in St. Louis.

The answer? Nothing.

Aside from the fact that Fairley signed just a one-year deal and offers depth at a position where the Rams had none, the Rams clearly view Brockers as part of the plan moving forward. His future in St. Louis remains unclear in terms of what his next contract looks like, but for now it's a safe bet the Rams will pick up the fifth-year option on Brockers' contract before the deadline in May. They could then negotiate an extension as they did with defensive end Robert Quinn, but it's all but certain they aren't going to allow Brockers to hit free agency after next season.

The Rams originally used the 14th overall pick on Brockers in the 2012 NFL draft after a pair of trade downs with the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys. At the time, Brockers was one of the youngest players in the draft as he entered the league at just 21. He promptly signed his four-year, $9.522 million contract with the team.

As part of the 2012 draft class, Brockers is also part of the second group to complete the four-year rookie deal under the terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. That also makes Brockers part of the second class eligible to have a fifth-year option picked up.

The fifth-year option is still a relatively new concept. It applies only to first-round picks, and is at the sole discretion of the team. The team must make the decision by May 3, but has had the ability to exercise it since Dec. 29.

According to the fifth-year option rules, a player taken in the top 10 gets the same rights and money as a transition player, which is an average of the top 10 players at a position. A player like Brockers, taken betweens Nos. 11 and 32, gets a deal just shy of the transition number, as it averages the salaries of the third through 25th highest paid players at the position.

The exact price for exercising the option on Brockers isn't known at the moment, but we can use teammate Quinn as a reasonable jumping off point. The Rams exercised their option on Quinn last year for a price that came in at about $6.969 million for defensive linemen. Quinn also plays defensive line and also was once the 14th pick in the draft.

Quinn's option never materialized despite the Rams exercising it, though. He signed a lucrative six-year contract before the team's Week 2 meeting against Tampa Bay. Any player that has their option picked up must play under that one-year price, though it's guaranteed only for injury until the first day of the league year in which the option has been picked up (so 2016 in Brockers' case).

As for Brockers, he has had his share of ups and downs since arriving in St. Louis. He has flashed occasional brilliance, but also been no more than steady at times. With the emergence of Aaron Donald alongside him, Brockers did seem to settle in nicely to a different role as last season went along.

The Rams asked Brockers to handle more of a nose tackle position, with his primary task to line up over the center and take on multiple blockers to create more favorable matchups for Donald playing the three-technique. That was a departure from the traditional left and right tackle assignments that he had played since arriving in St. Louis.

The result was a career low in sacks (two) and a second-lowest output in tackles (32). Moving Brockers hurt his numbers, but it helped the rest of the defense get rolling over the final half of the season when the Rams went from the bottom of the league in sacks to near the top.

Playing nose tackle is a thankless job that likely won't bring many eye-popping statistics or much attention, but in Brockers' case, his efforts aren't likely to go unnoticed by the Rams.