The Indianapolis Colts agreed to terms with free agent wide receiver Hakeem Nicks on Friday. The deal is of the "prove it" variety, and will pay Nicks $3.5 million over a single season. That gives both the Colts and Nicks time to feel each other out and see if a long-term deal is right for both sides.
It's a significant signing given what Nicks brings to the table. He's not the best receiver in the NFL by any means, but if you take away a couple down seasons, him hitting the open market would have been huge news. Unfortunately, Nicks has dealt with significant injury concerns over the past two years.
Nicks went as far as to send letters to all 32 teams with notes from multiple doctors giving him a clean bill of health. He obviously wants to play badly, and the Colts bought in on what he was selling. Nicks has never actually played a full season in his career, even in his two solid seasons in 2010 and 2011.
Still, those were solid seasons. Nicks put up 79 receptions, 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010, and had 76 receptions, 1,192 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011. Unfortunately, Nicks didn't manage a single touchdown last season, and only had three in 2012. Both seasons he came up short of 900 yards receiving.
He's a hugely talented receiver with a lot to offer if he can remain healthy. He can be an effective weapon for Andrew Luck and he makes the Colts more dangerous than ever, if he can stay on the field. It will definitely be interesting to see where this goes, and if he can perform at a high level over the first half of the season, if the Colts elect to give him an extension sooner rather than later.
Over at Colts blog Stampede Blue, they're buying in on Nicks being able to help:
Nicks had previously mentioned how he would be dangerous playing with Andrew Luck and he very well might be. He adds a nice boost to a Colts receiving core that really needed it. Reggie Wayne is coming back, but he's 35 years old, coming off of a torn ACL, and is on the final year of his contract. T.Y. Hilton is phenomenal, but he needs help and can't do it all on his own. Da'Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill both have talent but are too unproven yet to count on - thus, the Colts needed to get help at receiver this offseason. Don't be surprised if they also address the position in the draft as well.
Here's what else you might have missed from Friday in the NFL:
Former Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher has found a new team: the Tennessee Titans. Oher will be locked up for the next four seasons, and will make $20 million with $9.5 million guaranteed over that time. Oher had a lot of hype entering the league, but has not lived up to it in recent seasons. His 2013 campaign was particularly bad, but perhaps a change of scenery will be what he needs. He's slated to play right tackle with the Titans next season.
Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith has signed with the Baltimore Ravens. Smith will be in Baltimore on a three-year contract worth $11 million with a $3.5 million signing bonus. It's good to see Smith find a team quickly after the issues he had with Carolina and whether or not he'd be released. He's taking a pretty big pay-cut given that he was set to earn $7 million with the Panthers last year.
The Green Bay Packers held fast in offering defensive tackle B.J. Raji a short "prove it" kind of deal, and after testing the open market, Raji has accepted the deal. He will return to the Packers on a one-year, $4 million contract. He's a solid defensive tackle, but his production fell off in 2013 and the market that was once strong for players like him died out rather quickly. Green Bay's defense struggled as a whole last season, and if it's to improve, Raji has to become the player he was in his first couple seasons in the NFL.
The Oakland Raiders just locked down one of the top cornerbacks remaining on the open market in Tarell Brown. A long-time starter with the San Francisco 49ers, Brown took a one-year, $3.5 million contract to join the Raiders. It was reported that the 49ers were willing to pay Brown $10 million over three years, but that also comes with a crowded cornerback position, where in Oakland, Brown is basically guaranteed a starting job, opposite D.J. Hayden.
The New England Patriots just bolstered their secondary to new heights by signing free agent cornerback Brandon Browner. The team has already signed Darrelle Revis, and with Browner, Patriots fans probably don't even remember who Aqib Talib is at this point. Browner joins the Patriots on a three-year, $17 million deal. Browner does come with some issues, as he absolutely cannot handle any more off-the-field issues, given that he's already suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season.
Over at Pats Pulpit, they speculate as to Browner's role next season:
This is a big signing for the Patriots, and makes their defensive backfield much more versatile. It's unclear at this point what role Browner will play. He could play opposite Darrelle Revis in a press man cover corner role - in a similar fashion to how he played opposite Richard Sherman in Seattle. He could also possibly be moved to strong safety - where the Patriots could have an opening opposite Devin McCourty. He could also be a sub-package specialist, where he could serve as a hybrid safety/cornerback/linebacker and would seemingly be a great player to match up against any tight end in the league.
Suddenly, the Patriots secondary (specifically their top six) is one of the deepest and scariest in the whole league:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been looking for a starting center on the open market, and on Friday, they landed a good one: Evan Dietrich-Smith. The team signed him to a four-year deal worth $14.25 million, a bargain for a guy who will likely come in and start from the get-go. He was an undrafted free agent in 2009, but he quickly established himself as a starter with the Packers in 2012. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers wanted the team to re-sign Dietrich-Smith, but he didn't get his wish. Dietrich-Smith can also play the guard position if need be.
The Chicago Bears have agreed to terms with free agent cornerback Charles Tillman. He'll be returning to Chicago on a one-year contract. He's been a starter since his rookie year in 2003 and the Bears wanted to bring him back. The biggest issue is the fact that he was injured for much of 2013, but he still managed three interceptions, six passes defensed and three forced fumbles. He has 42 forced fumbles and 36 interceptions over the course of his career.