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One Reason Teams Trade for Late First Round Picks in the NFL Draft

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Super Bowl Winner - Press Confernce Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

There are trades throughout the NFL Draft. Teams have plenty of motivation to trade up, but there is one particular part of the Draft where there is an extra reason to move up.

On Thursday night you might see teams picking in the top of round two trade up to get one of the last picks in the first round. Why do they do this? Clearly there is a player they like. Perhaps with the first round closing, they don’t want to give other teams a chance to regroup and work out a trade with the Browns for the top pick in the second round between the end of the first round Thursday night and the start of the second round Friday evening.

There might be one extra motivation. There is a difference between first round contracts and second round contracts. Both typically last four years, but first round players come with a fifth year team option in their contracts. Rookie contracts in the NFL are inexpensive. The fifth year option isn’t as cheap as the first four years, but if you hit on a pick it is still a discount on what a team would have to pay on the open market. The fifth year for players picked outside the top ten is the average of the 3rd through 25th highest salaries at each player’s position.

It carries little risk. It is a team option so the player has no say. If the pick doesn’t work out, the team doesn’t need to pick up the option. The option also isn’t guaranteed until the player’s fifth league year begins. So if the player regresses, the team can cut the player before the fifth year without a cost.

The option alone might not be the driving force behind a trade up, but it certainly can be an argument in favor of moving back into the first round.