Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward had a breakout year in 2013 and with 2014 currently scheduled to be the final year of his rookie contract, the team will have to decide by May 3rd whether or not to pick up the fifth-year option that came into existence with the new CBA agreement in 2011.
Being as Heyward was drafted 31st overall in 2011, his option year amount will be the average of the 25 highest-paid players at his position, with the top three excluded, according to Pro Football Talk. Early estimates have that number coming in north of $8.4 million for defensive ends.
Should the Steelers decide not to exercise Heyward's fifth-year option come May, the Ohio State product would then become an unrestricted free agent next offseason if a new long-term extension is not agreed upon beforehand.
Exercising the option is sort of like a pre franchise tag, however, it is only guaranteed for injury until the first day of the 2015 new league year, per the CBA.
There is no reason to think that the Steelers won't exercise Heyward's option, but they will likely wait until the last minute to do it, just in case the defensive end were to suffer some sort of freak injury during the offseason. Once it is exercised, the two sides will likely work on getting a long-term extension done following the 2014 season. That would lock Heyward up for several years and lower his 2015 cap hit in the process.
In short, Heyward's not going anywhere.
Moving forward from there, guard David DeCastro, would be the next former first-round draft pick that will need his fifth-year exercised following the 2014 season.
Fifth-year options only apply to first-round draft picks.