The announcement of teams picking up the fifth-year option for players selected in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft are rolling in, and the Bucs are expected to join in by picking up the fifth-year option for cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III – although no final official decision has been made yet. The deadline for making the fifth-year option declarations occurs next week.
Hargreaves’ fifth-year option would be north of $9 million for the 2020 season and the Bucs could rescind that offer and cut him after if he doesn’t perform well in 2019. That could be a bargain if Hargreaves stays healthy and plays well in Todd Bowles’ new press man coverage scheme – and that’s a big if, as Hargreaves has missed 22 games over the past two years due to injury.
The cornerback market has exploded in recent years with 17 players making at least $10 millions or more per year, including Kareem Jackson, who signed with Denver for $11 million per year this offseason at age 31.
Hargreaves is slated to earn $2,383,317 in base salary this year and has a cap value of $4,511,076 due to the 2019 portion of the $8,511,026 signing bonus he received back in 2016.
Tampa Bay traded down with Chicago from the ninth overall pick to the 11th selection to draft Hargreaves, who became an instant starter in a trial-by-fire rookie season. Hargreaves gave up the most receiving yards of any cornerback as a rookie, starting 16 games and recording 76 tackles, nine pass breakups, one forced fumble and one interception.
Hargreaves struggled in his second season, playing in just nine games with seven starts as he dealt with confidence issues and a hamstring injury, which prompted him to go on injured reserve after recording 42 tackles and five pass breakups. Hargreaves found his confidence and played much better in the 2018 training camp and preseason, but was lost for the year with a shoulder injury in Week 1 that required surgery after he notched seven tackles, one pass breakup and a forced fumble.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht picked up the fifth-year options of former first-round picks wide receiver Mike Evans (2014) and quarterback Jameis Winston (2015) over the last two years.