Shea McClellin was drafted by then general manager Phil Emery in 2012 to play defensive end in Lovie Smith's Tampa 2 defense. He was moved to 4-3 outside linebacker under Marc Trestman's and Mel Tucker's watch last year. Now he's being moved to 3-4 inside linebacker for the 2015 season for head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
As the 19th overall draft pick in 2012, McClellin signed a 4 year contract worth $8,263,398, but since he was a first rounder, the Chicago Bears hold a team option for a 5th year. His fifth-year option would be the average of the 3rd-25th highest paid players at his position, which is now linebacker. According to CBS Sports, that number would be $7,751,000 if the Bears decided to roll the dice on Shea for the 2016 season.
That's an awful big chunk of change for a player that current Bears GM Ryan Pace didn't draft.
But what if McClellin really takes to the new 3-4 defense and proves to be a valuable and versatile player in 2015?
Sure they have the option to re-sign him before he hits the open market, but would that 5th year at $7.7 million be so outlandish it's not worth picking up?
If the Bears picked up the 5th year, and McClellin was injured and unable to play his 5th season, the deal would be fully guaranteed. But, if McClellin was healthy and Chicago felt he wasn't worthy of the 5th year they committed to him, they could always cut him.
The option year becomes fully guaranteed on the first day of the league year in the fifth contract year (approximately March 8, 2016 for the 2012 draft class).
So technically the Bears could give him the 5th year (2016), see how he plays in his 4th season (2015), then release him before the league year starts. The chance they run into is if McClellin suffers an injury that prevents him from playing 2016, the Bears are on the hook for the full $7.7 million and change.
Here's what former agent Joel Corry had to say from the above linked CBS article.
McClellin has been a disappointment at both outside linebacker and defensive end in his three seasons with the Bears. It's unlikely that the Bears exercise the option with him. There's a logjam at outside linebacker and general manager Ryan Pace doesn't have a vested interest in McClellin's success since Phil Emery, his predecessor, drafted McClellin.
I agree. I just don't see enough positives to giving McClellin the 5th year, even though Chicago's salary cap in 2016 would be much friendlier.
But if Fox, Fangio, Pace, the defensive staff and scouts go over McClellin's film from Boise State and the last three years as a Bear, and feel he has upside in the new 3-4 D, it could raise some doubts over whether to give him the 5th year or not.
ESPN's John Clayton says the "trend is to pick up the option when in doubt," so maybe they err on the side of caution and exercise the team option.
That happened last week with Coples, the 16th pick of the 2012 draft, and Ingram, the 18th pick. Coples has 16½ sacks in three seasons. Ingram has six sacks and missed 19 games with injuries. If you believe Pro Football Focus ratings, Coples ranked 40th among linebackers last year and Ingram 36th, neither of which likely merits a $7.8 million salary.
According to PFF, Quinton Coples had a -4.9 grade on the 2014 season and Melvin Ingram had a -1.6 as 3-4 OLBs. For comparison's sake, McClellin graded out as the 24th ranked 4-3 OLB with a +1.2 according to PFF.
If the Bears feel McClellin's best football is in front of him, maybe they show him the money.
What do you think the Bears will do?