Packers unlikely to exercise Perry's option

Weston Hodkiewicz
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There is one matter Ted Thompson must tend to this weekend in addition to conducting his 11th NFL draft as Green Bay Packers general manager.

What to do with outside linebacker Nick Perry.

While it's unlikely the Packers will exercise their fifth-year option on the 2012 first-round pick, Thompson has until Sunday to make a final determination, if he hasn't already made up his mind.

Perry, 25, is signed through 2015, but will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason if his option isn't picked up.

If the Packers pass, they'll be one of only a handful NFL teams that have yet to exercise the fifth-year option on a former first-round pick since the provision was added during the most recent collective bargaining agreement in 2011.

That agreement stipulates all first-round picks receive four-year contracts with a fifth-year option at the team's discretion. The player's salary is based on a formula of the highest-paid players at that position.

The player's fifth-year pay is guaranteed for injury once the option is exercised and becomes fully guaranteed if he's on the roster at the start of the 2016 league year. The NFL hasn't released the option salaries, but estimates Perry would cost $7.751 million.

A year ago, the Packers declined the $7.438 million option on tackle Derek Sherrod, the 32nd overall pick in 2011 whose career was halted for two years after breaking his leg near the end of his rookie season. He made the 53-man roster out of training camp, but was released Nov. 3 when JC Tretter was activated off the physically unable to perform list.

Perry (6-foot-3, 265 pounds) has had more of an impact than Sherrod, but also has dealt with injuries. He's missed 16 total regular-season games during his first three NFL seasons due to various wrist, knee, foot and shoulder ailments.

When the Packers drafted Perry 28th overall, they hoped he could complement fellow USC alumnus Clay Matthews at outside linebacker. So far, he's seen most of his snaps as a rotational rusher with 68 tackles and nine sacks in 32 games (15 starts).

Question still linger about whether Perry is a fit for a 3-4 defense after playing end in a 4-3 at USC. The Packers tried to better utilize his "tweener" skill set last season with the installation of elephant edge rushers in coordinator Dom Capers' defense.

Looking for more production opposite Matthews, Thompson made the uncharacteristic move of signing veteran Julius Peppers last offseason. He had 44 tackles, seven sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions returned for touchdowns in his first year with the Packers.

Perry and 2010 second-round pick Mike Neal spelled Peppers and Matthews, who started rotating at inside linebacker midway through the season. Whether injury or depth, it's been difficult for Perry to get on the field. He's played 18.4 percent, 35.0 percent and 32.9 percent of the Packers' defensive snaps from 2012-14, respectively.

Fourteen NFL teams have announced their intention to pick up the fifth-year option on 2012 first-round picks with several others likely to be exercised in the coming days. A year ago, 21 franchises maintained their 2011 first-round pick's rights for an extra season.

There are six teams that have yet to use the provision in its first two years: Green Bay, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Seattle, New Orleans and Minnesota. However, it's expected the Vikings will pick up safety Harrison Smith's option this week and Seattle could follow with linebacker Bruce Irvin.

Money isn't an issue. The Packers have $17 million in salary-cap room and only one budding playmaker entering the final season of his contract in 2012 fourth-round pick Mike Daniels. Still, it would be surprising for the Packers to commit to Perry for nearly $8 million in 2016.

The most likely scenario is the Packers allowing Perry to play out the final year of his rookie contract, which will pay him $1.413 million next season. Then, it's up to Perry to show whether he can be more than the rotational player he's been the past three seasons.

— and follow him on Twitter @WesHod

No fifth years

NFL teams that haven't used fifth-year options:

Green Bay: OL Derek Sherrod (32nd overall, 2011), OLB Nick Perry (28th, 2012).

Jacksonville: QB Blaine Gabbert (10th, 2011), WR Justin Blackmon (fifth, 2012).

Tampa Bay: DE Adrian Clayborn (20th, 2011), OL Gabe Carimi (29th, 2011), RB Doug Martin (31st, 2012).

Seattle: OL James Carpenter (25th, 2011), LB Bruce Irvin (15th, 2012).

New Orleans: RB Mark Ingram (28th, 2011).

Minnesota: QB Christian Ponder (12th, 2011), OL Matt Kalil (fourth, 2012), S Harrison Smith (29th, 2012).

* — Teams have until Sunday to exercise options on 2012 first-round picks

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