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Mason's Mailbag: The upside of the QBs, and a look at fifth-year options
April 23, 2017 11:34 PM | Andrew Mason
You can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase or use the submission form to your right (if you're viewing on a standard browser) or at the bottom of the page if you're on the mobile site.

If people consider Trevor Siemian average last year on an offense with issues in pass protection, the running game, at tight end/slot receiver and while playing injured most of the season (and it was also his first year as a starter), shouldn't those same people be asking how good can he be if he had those things and more experience?

It seems to me that's a big reason why Trevor is competing for the starting job again because the Broncos don't believe they've seen his ceiling yet and believe he still has room to grow.

-- Kayla Smith

Thank you. I've tried to make this point when asked about the quarterback competition on myriad radio appearances. With just about every young player who starts at least half of the games in a season at any position, there is discussion of where he can go, and how much he can improve with more experience and practice time. Unless injury intervenes, most players in that situation do improve as they continue adjusting to the speed and demands of the NFL. With improvement around him, there is no tangible reason that Siemian cannot improve.

There is a reason why Head Coach Vance Joseph continues to make the point that the team is in good shape because of its two young quarterbacks. He knows the odds are favorable for both to improve, and he understand that we haven't seen all -- or maybe even a fraction -- of what Siemian and Paxton Lynch can be.

When money talks, wouldn't a player make more if he is drafted in the second round vs the first if he is very good in the long run? With the fifth-year option on a first-rounder by a club, a second-rounder can hit free agency after four years and go for the big money.

-- Randy Jones

Not necessarily.

Let's take a look at the 2012 NFL Draft, since even fifth-year-option players from that draft have hit the market.

Eleven first-rounders from that year played the 2016 season under fifth-year options. (This does not include players who had their options picked up, but signed contract extensions in 2015 and 2016 before the options kicked in.) Between their 2016 fifth-year-option money and the guaranteed money they accumulated in deals signed in recent months, these players averaged $29,432,909 in guaranteed money, per Spotrac.com.

Now, you compare that with the 21 second-round picks from 2012 who eventually earned second (and, in some cases, third) contracts with guaranteed money. The average guarantee to these players is barely half of those first-rounders: $15,537,088 (again, per Spotrac.com).

All this doesn't even take into account the fact that if you're drafted in the first round, you've got a bigger contract with a bigger signing bonus. The first-round picks in 2012 earned an average of $6,448,143 from their signing bonuses; the second-rounders averaged $1,539,874.

And also remember this: Contract values for elite free agents rise annually with the salary cap. Let's take a look at two comparable guards from the 2012 draft to see how this worked.

KELECHI OSEMELE: A second-round pick of the Ravens in 2012, Osemele hit free agency last year and got $25.4 million in guarantees on a five-year deal with the Raiders.

KEVIN ZEITLER: A first-round pick of the Bengals in 2012, Zeitler played the 2016 season on a fifth-year option for $8.07 million. Then he signed a five-year deal with the Browns that included $31.5 million in guarantees -- $6.1 million more than Osemele received. When adding in the fifth-year option money, Zeitler comes out $14.17 million ahead of Osemele in post-2015 earnings -- all because he was a first-round pick.

Do you think the Broncos can get the O-line prospect from Troy in the second round? I love the idea of Christian McCaffrey or David Njoku in the first and him in the second.

-- Brian Spillane

Antonio Garcia from Troy should be available in the middle of the second round. If the Broncos don't look to the offensive line in Round 1, he would be a potential option.

How does playoff success affect draft position?

-- Peter Q., Wisconsin

It can change the entire complexion of the last 12 non-compensatory picks of each round.

Here's an example: In the 2012 NFL Draft, the 21st and 23rd picks in the first round would have belonged to the Denver Broncos and New York Giants, respectively, if they had lost their wild-card games. But the 8-8 Broncos stunned the Steelers in overtime, and the 9-7 Giants walloped the Falcons to begin a sprint to their fourth world title. The Broncos received the 25th pick after losing in the divisional round (they later traded the pick). The Giants ended up with the 32nd pick.

The final 12 picks in the first round are arranged as follows:

21-24: Wild-card losers, with the team with the worst regular-season record getting the 21st pick, second-worst at 22, and so on.
25-28: Divisional-round losers, again following the protocol of the team with the worst regular-season record going first.
29-30: Conference-championship game losers, again by record.
31: Super Bowl loser
32: Super Bowl winner

Submit a question for the next Mailbag!

The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization.






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