The 2011 NFL draft brought us the first wave of rookies to be impacted by the new collective bargaining agreement. Under the new CBA, no rookie can sign a contract of longer than four years, but all players selected in the first round have a fifth-year team option built into the contract.
As of Tuesday, 15 of the 32 first-round picks from the 2011 draft and all four in the AFC East have had the fifth-year option exercised in their contract. Teams have until May 3 to decide whether to pick up the extra year in the contract.
The New England Patriots exercised the fifth-year option for left tackle Nate Solder on April 23, making him the first such player in the AFC East. He will be paid $7,438,000 by the Patriots in 2015, which currently ranks him as the 15th-highest paid left tackle for the 2015 season.
The Miami Dolphins may have been hesitant to invest their faith in center Mike Pouncey in light of recent events, but any hesitation or doubt over their faith in Pouncey was recently put aside. On Tuesday, the Dolphins announced they have exercised the fifth-year option for center Mike Pouncey's rookie contract, meaning he is now under contract through the 2015 season.
Pouncey is the last of the four first-round picks in the AFC East to have his option exercised. The New York Jets exercised the fifth-year option for defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson on April 26; the Buffalo Bills did so for defensive tackle Marcell Dareus on the same day.
Pouncey has played and started 46 games in his NFL career, missing two games to injury in 2013. He was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2013. He has been the Dolphins' best offensive lineman since joining the team, but he was named as one of Jonathan Martin's harassers in the Ted Wells investigation. Pouncey was also issued a subpoena to appear in court in the Aaron Hernandez murder investigation.