The New England Patriots will have plenty of business decisions to make over the next few months. The team has a lengthy list of free agents in all three phases of the game, will have to add defensive talent and a potential heir to quarterback Tom Brady via the draft, and might have to make a decision on salary cap casualties. New England's front office also needs to decide on the fifth-year contract options of two of its players.
Per the collective bargaining agreement, first round draft picks will be signed to standard four-year rookie contracts. However, as opposed to players selected later, their deals will include a fifth option year: Teams can pick up the option, which comes in the form of a pre-determined, fully-guaranteed one-year salary or decline it and see the player hit the open market after his fourth season (if, of course, he has not been extended at that point).
New England, as noted above, has two players on its roster selected in the first round of the year currently up for the option decision, 2015. The team has the chance to pick up the option until May 3 and if it does, the 2019 season's salary becomes fully guaranteed – first for injury only, beginning with the 2019 league year no matter what happens. So, will the Patriots pick them up? Let's try to find out.
DT Malcom Brown: Yes
The 32nd overall pick of the 2015 draft, Malcolm Brown has grown into a core defender for the Patriots – one that has improved every year in the league. Even though he does not register the flashy stats or is a regular three-down lineman, Brown does his job very well and opens up holes for second-level defenders to make plays in both the running and the passing game. As a result, New England is expected to pick up the 24-year old's option over the next months – an option that will pay him roughly $7.0 million in 2019 – and keep him in the fold for at least two more years.
WR Phillip Dorsett: No
While Brown is a known commodity on New England's team and has a proven track record of playing well, Phillip Dorsett is more of a question mark at this point. The first-year Patriot – he was acquired from the Indianapolis Colts in September – had a solid 2017 season as the fourth wide receiver, but it is doubtful he did enough to convince the team to exercise the option. After all, the number for wide receivers is expected to exceed $8.5 million and with Brandin Cooks up for a long-term deal, it would be a surprise to see the team invest that much in a depth player.
If both Brown and Dorsett perform well in 2018, there is still a chance for an in-season contract extension no matter if the option has been picked up or not. Brown in particular looks like a candidate to be bound to the team long-term – but the first step might very well simply be exercising the fifth-year contract option this offseason.