With the majority of the big deals already signed, many teams have turned to bargain shopping. That means a lot of one-year "prove it" type deals. Those deals can be boom or bust, but when they do hit, they are typically the best value an NFL team can find in free agency.
A few teams signed players to "prove it" deals on Tuesday, and one has the potential to be the best value deal of the entire offseason. Here's a look back at the good, the bad and the ugly from Tuesday.
The Cowboys have taken their lumps in free agency thus far, but Dallas did extremely well to win the Henry Melton sweepstakes. The 27-year-old defensive tackle is coming off a serious knee injury. That didn't prevent several teams from being interested, with Dallas beating out Seattle, St. Louis, Minnesota and others. Melton could be a steal as he reportedly signed a one-year deal with a club option for three more seasons. According to Mike Fisher, the 2014 portion of the deal is low-cost, but "Pro Bowl money" kicks in with the option. Essentially, Dallas could have one of the best defensive tackles on the cheap next season, then automatically secure him at market value if he returns to form.
Melton was one of the best pass-rushing defensive tackles in 2011 and 2012, even drawing the franchise tag last season. A healthy Melton could be Dallas' best defensive player next year, and the Cowboys won't have to worry about losing him in a bidding war if that happens. If Melton doesn't return to form, the cost for 2014 is low and the option won't be picked up. A win-win move for the Cowboys.
Jared Allen didn't have a massive market to begin with, but another interested team likely came off the board with Melton signing with the Cowboys. Dallas doesn't have much salary cap space to work with and Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports 1 said Allen to Dallas is now unlikely. Allen has drawn the most interest from Dallas, Denver and Seattle. The Broncos signed DeMarcus Ware, the Cowboys landed Melton and the Seahawks don't appear to be offering much. According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Seattle's offer might be in the range of one year for $4 million.
That is nowhere close to the three-year, $30 million deal Ware received in Denver. Allen is coming off another excellent season, but he and his agent can't be thrilled with the current state of his market.
It's been a rough offseason for the Panthers, and more bad news came on Tuesday with word that Cam Newton will undergo ankle surgery. The third-year quarterback injured his ankle in Week 16 only to play through it in Week 17 and in the playoffs. The good news for the Panthers is Newton is expected to need four months to recover and should be healthy by the start of training camp.
What makes this the "ugly" news of the day is that now there's a very real possibility that at the start of training camp Newton will have never thrown a pass to his top two, three, possibly four wide receivers. None of the wide receivers currently on Carolina's roster caught a NFL pass last season. Steve Smith is gone, Brandon LaFell is gone, Ted Ginn is gone and even Domenik Hixon is gone. Carolina will need to bring in multiple targets, whether in free agency or the draft.
Working with an entirely new wide receiver group was already going to be a challenge, but now having to do so without the benefit of offseason workouts makes it an even bigger issue. Chemistry between a quarterback and his receivers can be vital to a team's passing success. In some cases it can take years to develop. Missing OTAs certainly won't break the Panthers next season, but it won't help either. While Russell Wilson is gathering all of his receivers for an offseason workout, Newton will be unable to do the same. As competitive as the NFL is, the little things can make a big difference.
If the recovery time is longer than expected -- four months would be the middle of July -- Newton could miss the start of training camp. Newton and whichever receivers Carolina signs or drafts will have a lot of ground to make up and not much time to do it.