Declining S Karl Joseph’s 5th Year Option is a Mistake

The May 3rd deadline for teams to exercise fifth year options on their 2016 first round picks has passed and the Raiders decided not to pick up Karl Joseph’s. This means Joseph will be a free agent unless Oakland and Joseph’s camp can reach an agreement on a contract extension between now and the end of the season.

Declining Raiders S Karl Joseph’s 5th Year Option is a Mistake

After using a first round pick on safety Johnathan Abram in the 2019 NFL Draft, the writing was on the wall for Karl Joseph and last Friday’s decision shouldn’t have been a surprise. Between last season’s trade rumors and Abram’s selection, it’s clear that Joseph isn’t exactly head coach Jon Gruden’s favorite player on the roster. While organizations put plenty of thought behind these decisions, I believe Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock made a mistake. 

Joseph is a key part of the defense

Joseph was the Raiders highest graded defensive player according to Pro Football Focus even though he didn’t have a whole lot of competition for that accolade. With the team’s struggles on defense, I really don’t think they are in a position to risk losing a 26-year old promising player. While Gruden has stated the decision doesn’t mean Joseph isn’t in the team’s future plans, it’s hard for me to believe it when Oakland currently has $58 million in 2020 cap space and Joseph was projected to earn about $6.5 million on his fifth year option so the Raiders certainly missed out on the chance to see how a two-year position battle between Joseph and Abram would play out.

The option increase trade value

As mentioned above, Oakland spent a first round pick on Abram, who possess a very similar skill set to Joseph. If Oakland decides to move on from Joseph and make Abram the strong safety of the future, trading Joseph to get something for him would be the logical move. Part of the reason the Raiders got a first round pick for Amari Cooper is because the team exercised his fifth year option and at the time of the trade, Cooper was under contract for two years. The option could have given the Raiders more leverage in trade negotiations and would have allowed them to get more in return for Joseph.

The way I see it the Raiders have opened themselves up to the following risks:

  • Joseph has a great year and leaves in free agency
  • The Raiders’ trade him and essentially leave money on the table in terms of trade value
  • Joseph has a great contract year, gets a long-term deal and never performs up to standard set in his contract year… aka the David Amerson effect

Obviously there are valid points in support of Oakland’s decision. Please comment those below. I’m also curious to hear the other side of the argument, so if you have an opinion on the matter, share your opinion below!

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