Terrelle Pryor’s 1,007 receiving yards ranked 22nd in the NFL last season, and his 77 catches were 27th, stats accumulated despite playing with five quarterbacks on a team that went 1-15.
Still just 27, and coming off his first year as a full-time wideout, Pryor appears to be a player on the rise.
So it made sense to think Pryor would cash in as a free agent. Instead, Pryor settled for a one-year contract from the Washington Redskins worth at least $6 million. Not bad in real life; not really all that much in the NFL.
“Maybe … our market wasn’t where it was supposed to be,” Pryor said, “or we thought it would be.”
He’s not alone. Among other players in their 20s who wound up with one-year contracts — also known as a “prove it” or “bridge” deal — in free agency this month as part of an apparent trend: WR Alshon Jeffery (Eagles), DT Dontari Poe (Falcons), DT Bennie Logan (Chiefs), OL Luke Joeckel (Seahawks), CB Prince Amukamara (Bears).
“If they don’t think they’re going to get the market that they thought they were going to get at the beginning,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said, “I know this is becoming an alternative. … You come in, you have a great year, and then maybe the following year you’re able cash in on a significant long-term deal.”
At least they have contracts already. As of Friday, there were still a couple of prominent names looking for a team: Colin Kaepernick,Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles.
“Some guys don’t want to take deals where they’re outplaying the deal,” Pryor said. “I just wanted to get a one-year deal and see how I fit with the program and move forward after that, and see if we get something done if everything works well.”
Asked about the possibility of remaining in Philadelphia for the long haul, Jeffery replied, “I’m just going to focus on this season.”
Logan spoke about the chance to “re-establish yourself.”
There are those who say it makes sense to go that route, especially for younger players.
“Unless you have an aging veteran who’s north of 30 and has limited years left, I would take a one-year deal,” agent Joe Linta said, “because he only has to wait one more year to try to hit it big.”
Could clubs have banded together this offseason to keep contracts shorter or avoid long-term agreements with specific players or at certain positions?
“To assume that 32 teams are colluding would be like expecting Octomom to get all eight of her kids to eat oatmeal at the same time. It’s not going to happen,” Linta said. “Teams are all colluding about a bunch of players to force them into one-year deals? I really don’t believe it.”
Others caution about the risks of a one-year contract.
“There is never a time, because of the volatility and risk associated with playing in the NFL, that you want your client to have to take a one-year deal. That’s the key word: to ‘have’ to take it,” agent David Canter said. “What happens if he breaks his ankle in the first week of training camp? … There’s never any guarantee that the player gets back to the marketplace and gets paid.”
Keep in mind, the sorts of fully guaranteed contracts available to athletes in Major League Baseball, the NBA or NHL are not doled out in the NFL.
Often, multiyear deals that sound as if they’re worth a lot allow a team to get out after one or two years.
“In the past, agents by and large felt like they had to find stability for a player, so it was very rare to get a one-year deal. The minimum, really, was a two-year deal and try to get some guarantees in the second year,” former Broncos GM Ted Sundquist said. “But I would say, ‘Why not?’ to a one-year deal. Maybe you’ve got to prove your knee is back or you’ve cleaned up your act. If you become a substantial part of that new club’s success, I would assume that club is going to reward you. … It’s a smart thing for agents to have in their tool belt and recommend to players.”