The Patriots had to make the call on three players with fifth-year options for the 2019 season. They have declined all three of them.
In addition to turning down the option for defensive tackle Danny Shelton, the Pats have also declined an extra season for defensive tackle Malcom Brown and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). Turning down Dorsett was something of a no-brainer and Shelton was something of a 50/50 proposition, but the decision to decline Brown’s option comes as a surprise.
Brown, the final pick in the first round of the ’15 draft, would have earned $7.154MM had his option been exercised. The Patriots may look to hammer out an extension to keep him in the fold beyond 2018, but it would likely be at a lesser rate per season. The 24-year-old defensive tackle has started in 37 of his 45 games for the Pats over the last three seasons. In that time, he has managed 8.5 sacks from the interior. In each of the last two seasons, he graded out as a top-32 player at the defensive tackle position, per Pro Football Focus.
The Patriots are known for crafty cap maneuvering, so they could be eyeing cheaper replacements in 2019 for their young defensive tackles. They would also stand to gain compensatory picks by losing either player to free agency after the 2018 season.
The option on Dorsett, 25, would have cost New England nearly $9.4MM in 2019. After Dorsett played sparingly in 2017 and amassed just 194 receiving yards, the team gave no real thought to extending him through 2019.