Washington general manager Scot McCloughan announced Monday that the team will exercise the fifth-year option on quarterback Robert Griffin III, putting him under contract with the team through 2016. Although this move doesn't guarantee that RGIII is now the franchise quarterback, it does place him in the spotlight for the immediate future with a chance to prove he can become a more consistent player and one of the league's top signal callers.
McCloughan said the team arrived at the decision a while ago and spoke to Griffin and his agent on Monday morning. He said there's a "positive feeling in the building right now," and the team plans to inform the league office prior to the May 3 deadline.
When asked whether using the fifth-year option on Griffin changes what the team plans to do with the fifth overall pick, McCloughan was adamant that it wouldn't. "It does not affect our draft process whatsoever," McCloughan said. "If we get to the fifth pick and the best player is a quarterback, we're taking the quarterback."
He also said that Washington hasn't received any official offers for quarterback Kirk Cousins, and that the team doesn't want to give up on any player prematurely. Still, he said the team will always take phone calls and consider anything if it's a win-win situation.
Griffin joins players like Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram and Steelers offensive lineman David DeCastro who are all among those who have received the fifth-year option. While those other guys received an extra season with little fanfare, the decision by Washington to give RGIII a fifth year was far from a no-brainer.
McCloughan didn't go into detail about why the team is exercising RG3's option, but he did offer that "he's a good football player. He's got good tape out there."
Griffin has struggled since winning the NFL's Rookie of the Year award in 2012, going 5-15 as a starter over the past two seasons while battling numerous injuries. He's now been benched by two different head coaches and ranks 24th out 31 qualifying quarterbacks in passer rating (83.7) during that span. Griffin was a disappointment in 2014, finishing with just four touchdowns and six interceptions in nine games. But he played better toward the end of the season, guiding Washington to a win over the Eagles in Week 16 and scoring three touchdowns in a Week 17 loss to the Cowboys.
Coach Jay Gruden gave Griffin a vote of confidence in February, telling reporters at his press conference during the NFL Combine that he would be the team's starting quarterback entering the 2015 season. Gruden also noted at the time that RGIII was working this offseason with his private quarterback coach, Terry O'Shea, to improve both his footwork and decision-making in the pocket.
In an interview with Jeff Darlington of NFL.com in April, Griffin said that he wasn't worried about whether the team would find a replacement for him in the draft and was simply focused on helping the team win in the upcoming season.
The fifth-year option was put into place alongside the rookie wage scale when the CBA was renegotiated in 2011. Per the agreement, first-round picks have a fifth-year option built into the standard four-year rookie contract, and teams can exercise the option after the player's third season.
As the second overall pick in 2012, Griffin will receive a salary of $16.155 million in 2016. That number is guaranteed for injury, and becomes fully guaranteed on the first day of the league year in the option season.