It’s now official. The deadline has passed for teams to exercise the 5th year option on 2016 first round picks. Raiders safety Karl Joseph was not among them, making this the final year of his rookie contract.
The 14th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Joseph is among the highest drafted players from that year to not get his option picked up. The only players who were drafted higher were 8th overall pick Titans tackle Jack Conklin and 10th overall pick Saints cornerback Eli Apple (originally drafted by the Giants and traded to New Orleans.
It’s not uncommon, however, for first round picks to not get their option picks up. In fact, once you get into the lower part of the first round of that draft, more players did not get their option picked up than those who did, as ESPN’s Field Yates lays out nicely here.
2016 fifth-year option tracker, Part II:— Field Yates (@FieldYates) May 3, 2019
17. Neal: ✔️
18. Kelly: ✔️
19. Lawson: ❌
20. Lee: ❌
21. Fuller: ✔️
22. Doctson: ❌
23. Treadwell: ❌
24. Jackson: ✔️
25. Burns: ❌
26. Lynch: ✂️
27. Clark: ✔️
28. Garnett: ❌
29. Nkemdiche: ❌
30. Butler: ❌
31. Ifedi: ❌
Just 6 of the final 19 players picked in that first round got their option picked up.
Basically the main issue with Karl Joseph being one of the highest players picked to not receiver a 5th year has mostly to do with being selected too high in the draft. He was coming off a serious ACL tear in his senior season at West Virginia that took well into training camp for him to return. The lingering effects of the injury — both physical and mental — essentially cost him his rookie season.
After his first full season as a healthy starter in 2017, New Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther came in and put two veterans on the field ahead of him who he thought could run his defense the way he wanted it run. Then Joseph got banged up early in the season and wasn’t able to take over as the starter until week 8, following the bye week. And low and behold, he was among the better defenders the Raiders had last season.
Basically what we’re talking about is a team having to make a decision based on half a season. Just bad luck more than anything.
Look at it this way, though. If Joseph plays well this season, he would be looking for a new contract regardless; whether by extension or otherwise. If he doesn’t play well enough to earn a new contract, the Raiders won’t be on the hook for another season and can either move on, or sign him to a new deal more favorable than the 5th year option year. The other 11 teams that didn’t pick up the option on their 2016 first round pick are thinking the same thing.