The fifth-year option news cycle can often go unnoticed by many fans in the NFL. Rarely is it discussed as a big deal, even if it plays a significant role in how teams around the league approach team building.

However, looking closely at how teams have handled their respective 5th-year options can provide valuable insight. Recently, The Athletic‘s Mike Sando put together a league-wide in-depth analysis on how often front offices have exercised these options.

His findings paint an interesting picture for the Dallas Cowboys. Sando ranked NFL teams by their “fifth-year option pickup rate.”

Although the rankings are noteworthy, it’s only fair to point out they shouldn’t be used to evaluate how well a team does in the draft. After all, the chances of “hitting” on a first-round draft pick highly depend on the slot in which the player was drafted.

The Cowboys rank 14th in the NFL with a 63% pickup rate since 2011. The players whose options were not exercised are Morris Claiborne, Taco Charlton, and Leighton Vander Esch (who was brought back for a one-year $2M deal).

The Cowboys aim to turn around their two-year draft slump soon enough. Although Charlton (2017) and Vander Esch (2018) didn’t get their options picked up, it’s safe to assume CeeDee Lamb (2020) and Micah Parsons (2021) are not going anywhere in the near future.

As for 2022, the Cowboys seem to have avoided an alarming trend by picking Tyler Smith with the 24th overall pick pointed out by Mike Sando in the article:

“Teams excited about the guards, running backs, off-ball linebackers, and defensive tackles they selected 19th through 32nd this year should know that players from these non-premium positions had their options picked up just three times in 20 chances (15%) across the 2015-2019 drafts.”

Some of the Cowboys’ top options heading into the Draft appeared to be among these non-premium positions.

When the Cowboys were on the clock, many wanted them to take any of the top linebackers on the board Devin Lloyd or Nakobe Dean (before we knew about the injury). Pre-draft, Dallas was linked to guards Zion Johnson and Kenyon Green. With both off the board in the top 17 picks, they weren’t even an option.

Instead, they took OT Tyler Smith. Although the rookie is projected to start at guard in 2022, the long-term plan is for him to transition into left tackle to become Tyron Smith’s successor in Dallas.

Whether or not that pans out remains a mystery. If it does, the Cowboys have a shot at picking up three straight fifth-year options.

Featured image via Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports