Terrelle Pryor is one of the most intriguing free agents this year. Pryor is on pace for 75 receptions, 1,000 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Cleveland’s executive team and potentially the general managers for the rest of the league will have to make a decision on what to pay a player that is in the top 25 in the NFL in targets, receptions, and yards after totaling 2 receptions in his first 4 seasons. Five years after being taken in the supplemental draft by the Raiders and after a switch from QB to WR, Pryor is still a huge question mark as he enters unrestricted free agency in a few months.
The first question to answer is whether or not the Browns should resign or apply the franchise tag to Pryor. The answer is “yes”: Pryor leads the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns – all but touchdowns by a wide margin. Looking ahead to next year and beyond, the Browns don’t have too many exciting options on offense already on the roster. Crowell, Barnidge, and Hawkins are nice role players, but don’t require targeted game planning from opposing defenses. Coleman has looked good in his rookie year when he has been on the field, but will likely finish with less than 500 yards on 30 or so receptions. Pryor has been the main offensive driver this year and for the next year or two should be at worst the second best threat (behind potentially Coleman) on the team.
Pryor will still only be 28 years old in 2017 and should improve as he gains both experience and a second receiving threat to draw defenses away. The chart below shows how Pryor’s 2016 season compares to several other receivers’ prior two years on a per-game basis.
In terms of catches and targets, Pryor compares very favorably to the rest of the group. Pryor has a low catch percentage, but that should improve as the Browns develop a second and third receiving option. Pryor is barely on pace for a 1,000 yard season and ends up in the middle of the pack in this group for both yards per game and yards per reception. The big negative with this data set is touchdowns. With such a small sample size, I’m inclined to pass on this for now as Pryor has dealt with generally poor play from his quarterbacks and a team that hasn’t had many scoring opportunities.
Overall, based on his production compared to players with APYs ranging from $8M to $13M, I can’t envision a scenario where Pryor signs for less than $8M.
From a season-long prospective, Pryor has looked the part of a Tier 1 or Tier 2 receiver. However, some of the shine is removed when his week to week consistency is considered. At his best, Pryor’s production puts him as a top 10 receiver. In other games, Pryor has no noticeable impact.
In 8 of his 14 games this season, Pryor has totaled less than 50 yards receiving. He has recorded 10 games this season with 5 or fewer receptions. In his best 4 games, Pryor has totaled 25 catches for 473 yards (average of 6/118). In his other 10 games, he has totaled 42 catches for 404 yards (average of 4/40). While his high points indicate a player that no one would question on a $10M+ APY contract, his low points have been pretty low.
Pryor’s agent can point to players such as Marvin Jones and Allen Hurns as players that Pryor is equal or better than and I don’t think the Browns or any other team would disagree (outside of maybe Detroit and Jacksonville). Both players are also inconsistent like Pryor and have shown the upside that Pryor has. Marvin Jones’ $8M APY should be the floor for Pryor’s next contract. It would also place him at or above WRs such as Torrey Smith, Mohamed Sanu, and Golden Tate – players that Pryor has also outperformed.
The Browns’ executive team doesn’t have much of a history to show us how they structure contracts, so I’m going to use the general averages that the $6-$10M APY WR contracts had in last year’s free agency period. Assuming an $8M APY, that contract would look something like this: $8M signing bonus, $14M total guaranteed, three year cash of around $24M.
If Pryor’s agent is able to convince the Browns to go to $10M APY – not unreasonable as that would place him in line with Tavon Austin, Allen Hurns, and Randall Cobb – those figures should be increased by about 25% to $10M signing bonus, $18M total guaranteed, and $30M three year cash. I would not be surprised to see a four or five year contract with clauses that guarantee or escalate the later years based on Pryor’s 2017 and 2018 production. A four year $40M contract would be very similar to the recent contracts of Emmanuel Sanders, Keenan Allen, Allen Hurns, and Jeremy Maclin (all four years and between $40M and $45M).
The franchise tag for receivers for 2017 is around $15.8M. Cleveland currently has around $63M in cap space for next year with only a handful of expiring contracts that should be brought back next year. I’m not in favor of a $15.8M APY multi-year contract, the franchise tag is very palatable given the Browns’ cap situation. However, that would also make Pryor the highest paid WR by APY. The only way I would use the franchise tag if I were Cleveland would be if a long-term extension was close and I wanted to maintain exclusive negotiating rights. I wouldn’t use the tag if they’re in a similar situation to Carolina and Josh Norman last year.
*Updated 12/20/2016: the earlier version of this article listed the WR franchise tag for 2017 as $14M. The correct figure is $15.8M.
|Contract||Signing Bonus||Yr 1 Salary||Yr 2 Salary||Yr 3 Salary||Yr 4 Salary||TOTAL (Guaranteed)|
|$8M APY||$8M||$3M||$6M ($3M)||$7M||$8M||$32M ($14M)|
|$10M APY||$10M||$4M||$7M ($4M)||$9M||$10M||$40M ($18M)|