FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In his piece detailing five moves for each AFC East team this offseason, ESPN's Bill Barnwell leads off with the No. 1 move for the New England Patriots: Pick up the fifth-year option on defensive tackle Malcom Brown. "The Patriots might not necessarily think about signing Brown to an extension this offseason, but keeping him around for 2019 is a no-brainer," Barnwell writes.
This is the time for the Patriots to decide to do so, as under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement clubs have the option of adding a fifth year to first-round rookie contracts after a player's third season. If a team does, the fifth year is guaranteed for injury.
Specific to the Patriots and Brown, let's take that one step further and detail what price tag would accompany that decision.
Brown was the 32nd overall pick in the 2015 draft, and players selected between Nos. 11-32 would receive a fifth-year salary that is the average of the third- through 25th-highest salaries at the position. Last year, that was $6.892 million for defensive tackles picked between Nos. 11-32. Two years ago, it was $6.757 million.
So, in essence, the Patriots would be asking themselves the question this offseason: Is Brown worth a salary of around $7 million in 2019?
That would be a big jump from his base salaries from the deal he signed as a rookie:
2017: $1.127 million
2018: $1.472 million
Brown played 50.7 percent of the defensive snaps in the 2017 regular season, usually coming off the field in obvious passing situations. He finished with 49 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
A player whose success isn't defined by traditional statistics such as tackles and sacks based on the two-gap style he often plays in the team's scheme, Brown was on the field for 57.2 percent of the defensive snaps in 2016, and 46.5 percent as a rookie in 2015.
As the numbers show, Brown has been more of a two-down player for the Patriots, but that doesn't mean he couldn't stay on the field more and be productive as an interior pass-rusher if given the opportunity. That is one reason why picking up the fifth-year option seems likely, even given the significant spike in salary.