Hakeem Nicks #88 WR, New York Giants
by Paul Carrozzo
When analyzing contract possibilities, we must remember that there is an ultimate bottom line to war that is waged between the player and the franchise that presently employs him. The franchise stands to benefit from the player’s heightened urgency through increased production on the field that given year. The player’s motivations are aligned with the organization as a good year means a bigger payday. Many times we see a team over pay for past performances similar to Joe Flacco’s blockbuster deal signed after he brought the Ravens a Super Bowl. “Past performance is no guarantee of future results” is the disclaimer on almost every investment prospectus. You would think that the men that own $1B+ franchises would be well versed in the concept and hence heed the warning. Or maybe the exact reason they are billionaires is because they have thrown caution to the wind in prior endeavors.
Hakeem Nicks came to the Giants as the 29th pick of the 2009 draft. The 6’1″ 210 lbs Nicks plays bigger than his frame would suggest. He has been a target of criticism for is inability to stay on the field, but can be dominant when in games. The Giants recently committed $46mm to another of their receivers, Victor Cruz, which will only increase the scrutiny from the New York media. Rueben Randle is an electrifying deep threat that will also be pushing Nicks for targets. When healthy, Giants quarterback, Eli Manning, likes to exploit the mismatches that Nicks creates on the outside.
Competing for WR free agent money in the offseason will be Kenny Britt of the Tennessee Titans and Jeremy Maclin of the Philadelphia Eagles. If Nicks can put up a full season of solid production I can see him in the getting paid as a Top 10 WR. If the Giants choose to franchise him after the season, he will cost $11mm for one year. Even if he has a terrible season, given his age and talent, he will command a minimum of $6mm APY.
Estimated New Contract: 5 years, $47.5mm
Jay Cutler #6 QB, Chicago Bears
by Paul Carrozzo
Marc Trestman has been brought in as the new head coach of the Chicago Bears this off-season. Although Trestman has never been the head man at this level, his resume is impressive especially in the area of quarterback improvement. Only Bernie Kosar, in his injury/ heavy drinking part of his career, declined under Trestman’s tutelage. Whether Steve Young, Scott Mitchell, Jake Plummer, Rich Gannon or their CFL cohort Anthony Calvillo, each player’s productivity spiked when playing for him.
The Bears offensive line struggles were well documented in 2012. The additions of Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson in free agency along with the 20th pick in the 2013 draft, Kyle Long, significantly improved a line that allowed Cutler to be sacked 38 times last year. Slauson is known as a much better pass blocker than run blocker and the Bears were comfortable with the trade off in an effort to keep Cutler upright. Bushrod comes over from New Orleans where he has spent much of his time protecting Drew Brees.
The skill positions will see an upgrade with Alshon Jeffery looking to take a giant leap forward in his sophomore season. Pairing Jeffery with the Brandon Marshall and the addition of Martellus Bennett at TE places Culter as the recipient of an upgraded crop of receivers. Matt Forte will be another year removed from knee surgery and will also be a threat in the new Trestman passing offense.
The surrounding cast is set for Cutler to showcase his skills this year. For the Bears, forcing Cutler to play out the final year of his contract makes absolute sense, considering no one really knows how he will fit in Trestman’s offense. Maybe more importantly is the Bears salary cap situation which will almost force a liquidation of the Bears roster at the conclusion of the 2013 season. When a big market franchise needs to rebuild, they tend to re-sign fan favorites. Cutler, like Trestman, rubs people the wrong way and is not at the top of the fan’s list. One thing that would vault him there is a Super Bowl victory which has eluded this franchise since another pair of eccentric personalities ran the show.
Estimated New Contract: 4 years, $58mm
Brian Orakpo #98 OLB, Washington Redskins
by Paul Carrozzo
Potentially the most sought after free agent at the end of this season. Orakpo combines supreme production with the pedigree of the #13 pick of the 2009 Draft. A Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate in ’09, Orakpo racked up a Redskin franchise record 11 sacks and added 51 tackles. In 2010 the Redskins moved to a 3-4 defense and he responded with very similar numbers in 2010 and 2011 (8.5 sacks, 56 tackles 2010; 9.0 sacks, 60 tackles 2011). In the Week #17 loss to Philadelphia, Orakpo tore his left pectoral muscle. Consistently drawing double-teams, he dedicated the offseason to come back stronger in 2012. The Redskins took it easy on their prized OLB in the preseason but to no avail as Orakpo re-tore the left pectoral muscle only two games into the 2012 season.
A healthy Orakpo is a Top-10 OLB in the NFL. If he produces on his stated goal of Defensive Player of the Year he stands to bring in a haul of $11mm+ APY. That is a big “if”, however, head coach Mike Shanahan feels that his 27 year old star “looks good as ever”.
Estimated New Contract: 4 years, $41.5mm