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Projecting Penei Sewell’s 5th-year contract option and why the Lions should pick it up

The Detroit Lions now have the option to pick up or decline the fifth year contract option on right tackle Penei Sewell.

NFC Championship - Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

In 2024, Detroit Lions starting right tackle Penei Sewell will enter the fourth year of his rookie contract, but because he was a first-round pick, the team has the option to add a fifth year onto that contract.

Because Sewell is still under contract this upcoming season, he is scheduled to make just over $7.6 million in 2024, but if the Lions add a fifth year, his contract will get a significant boost in 2025.

Most current NFL contracts come with incentives that reward players based on performance, and for players on rookie contracts, those stipulations are built into the framework of their original deals. With regards to players eligible for fifth-year options, they already get a contractual raise based on the spot they were selected in the first round of the draft, but playing time and Pro Bowl selections also factor into the value of that extra year.

The popular salary cap website OverTheCap.com, does a good job of breaking down what those fifth-year options costs would look like for each player eligible, based on the incentives triggered.

For Sewell, OTC is projecting a fifth-year option of $19,718,000 for the 2025 season.

Here’s how they arrived at that number. Because Sewell was selected seventh overall in the 2021 NFL draft class, his base fifth-year option was expected to start at $15.4 million. Based on playing time—he has played nearly every offensive snap during his three-year Lions career—the cost increases to $16.2 million. A single Pro Bowl selection jumps that number up to $19.7 million and a second Pro Bowl takes it up to $21.7 million.

While Sewell has made two Pro Bowls in his career, the first time he was selected, he was added in as an alternate, and therefore, from a contractual standpoint, it does not factor into the fifth-year option. Only his 2023-24 Pro Bowl selection, where he was voted in as part of the initial selection process, counts.

Now that the Lions' season is over, the window opens for them to pick up or decline Sewell’s fifth-year option, which they can do at any time. This window closes on May 2, 2024, exactly one week after the first day of the 2024 NFL Draft.

This decision to pick up the option should be a no-brainer for the Lions. At just 23 years old, Sewell is already arguably the best player on this roster. In addition to his two Pro Bowl nods, Sewell was also named a first-team All-Pro this year, and was named the best offensive lineman in the NFL by PFF. Sewell began stepping up as a vocal leader in his second year with the organization, was named a captain in 2023, and was the player who broke down the huddles with fiery speeches ahead of every game.

Simply put, Sewell is the cornerstone of the foundation this team is built on, and $19.7 million is a bargain.

Additionally, because Sewell has been in the league for three seasons, the Lions can also bypass the fifth-year option altogether and sign Sewell to a longer contract extension, if they desire. Getting Sewell under contract for a greater length of time would likely increase the average cost of his contract—the top 5 offensive tackles in the NFL average between $20 and $25 million per season—but it also gives the team flexibility in structuring how/when his salary cap hits take place.

The ball is now in general manager Brad Holmes’ hands.

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