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[BN] Blitz newsletter: Bills decline 5th-year option on third straight 1st-round pick

The 2011 collective bargaining agreement gave teams the option of adding a fifth year onto the standard four-year rookie contract for their first-round draft picks. The decision comes in the offseason after the player's third year.

The Bills have had an astonishingly low rate of success getting their first-round picks to the fifth-year option. The Bills declined to pick up Shaq Lawson's option this week, marking the third straight time the Bills declined to extend a first-rounder. They have only extended first-round picks twice in six potential chances to do so. Here's the list:

• 2011: Marcell Dareus ✅
• 2012: Stephon Gilmore ✅
• 2013: EJ Manuel ❌
• 2014: Sammy Watkins ❌
• 2015: Pick traded to acquire Watkins
• 2016: Shaq Lawson ❌

The Bills' current regime isn't to blame for this trend – its first draft pick was 2017 first-rounder Tre'Davious White, who will certainly have his option picked up next year.

But even if Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott didn't draft any of the aforementioned players, they can at least be second-guessed for not extending Watkins and Lawson. The cost of the fifth-year option isn't prohibitive, and picking it up gives highly talented players another chance to figure things out (while also giving the Bills another year to trade them).

Additionally, if the Bills picked up the option and the player didn't take the next step in his fourth season, he could be cut after the year without carrying any dead cap space. Fifth-year options are guaranteed for injury only, and it's unlikely a player would suffer an injury bad enough during his fourth year that would cause him to miss time during his fifth year.

If Lawson comes back motivated for his contract year and has a breakout season, the Bills could still sign him to an extension just like they would with any pending free agent, or they could place a transition or franchise tag on him. If not, Lawson will be another first-round pick that didn't work out in Buffalo.

Bills hope new tailgate policy in bus lot will help to curb unruly behavior: The Bills say the viral videos that come from their tailgate lots are "embarrassing." As a measure to curtail pregame antics, the Bills are reworking the bus lot, which is one of the rowdier sections of the tailgate. The biggest change, beside making it more expensive, is this:

Fans still will be able to bring in their own food and beverages for consumption at their tailgate, but will no longer be able to do so outside their vehicle. Rather, that will take place in their designated space inside “Tailgate Village.”

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Jay Skurski's way-too-early Bills 53-man roster projection: Now that the draft is over, it's time to think about who will make the roster. Jay gives a position-by-position breakdown of which 53 players could be make the team. One thing appears certain: The competition for starting offensive line spots will be fierce.

Spencer Long eager to rebound from Jets experience, earn starting job on Bills line: NFL coaches like to say that the best ability is availability. It's not a great saying, but it reminds players to push through injuries and get on the field whenever possible. Spencer Long felt he did that last season but still ended up getting cut by the Jets. The Bills didn't mind, signing him shortly after. “Even though last year might not have been the best year, I was pretty proud of how I fought through some pretty tough adversity,” Long said. “The stats aren’t going to show it. The tape might not have been my best tape. But nobody knows what was going on behind the scenes. I take pride in putting myself out there and giving it a shot when stuff wasn’t perfect.”

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Got feedback on this newsletter or our Bills coverage? Email Josh Barnett at jbarnett@buffnews.com. Find us on Facebook by clicking here and follow @BNBlitzNow on Twitter.

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[BN] Blitz newsletter: Of Bills' division rivals, Patriots get best draft grade

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