Terrelle Pryor Sr. hit the free agency market in the spring of 2017. Due to a strong incoming rookie class and a limited resume at the position, the quarterback-turned-wideout found himself signing a one-year contract with a new NFL team.
The wide receiver set some pretty high expectations with his rumored demand to stay with the Cleveland Browns at $13-15 million. Having only played wideout professionally for two years, he was a bit of a question mark. The Browns wouldn’t bite on a new deal, but Washington did.
Days after hopping on the team’s private jet heading toward Washington D.C., Pryor inked a one-year, $6 million deal with the team. He needed a landing spot, and the team needed to fill its roster after letting DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon get away in the offseason.
His $6 million price tag seemed low considering what he asked of the Browns, but there were an additional $2 million in incentives — although, that money won’t come easy. To get the full incentive package, he needs to have an 80-catch, 1,250-yard, 10-touchdown season. And let’s face it: If he hits those metrics, he’ll have no problem getting the big-money contract he’s looking for.
Still, the ball is in Washington’s court. Pryor will have to prove that his 1,000-plus yard season wasn’t just a fluke, but rather a solid foundation from which to build. He’s got all the intangibles teams want to see: size, speed, and versatility. But can he replicate his production from 2016?
Quarterback turned receiver
A player who switches positions several seasons into his career is going to have limited opportunities to prove himself. Coaches aren’t going to spend the time and energy on developing a player from scratch when there’s going to be another round of young talent looking for a shot in the spring.
Pryor’s case is a little different. Not only was his departure from Ohio State abrupt — helloooo #TattooGate — but he came into the league through the supplemental draft. He also had a five-game suspension to begin his NFL career.
The Buckeye ended up signing as a quarterback with the Oakland Raiders, before making short stops with the Seahawks, Chiefs, and Bengals. He was in Cincinnati for just over a month before being released and going on to announce he’d be willing to change positions — and then the Browns came calling.
Pryor was always known to be a gifted athlete, not just a quarterback, and it was this reputation that made it worth the Browns taking a chance on him in 2015.
The team wasn’t entirely confident in the receiver, however, releasing him early in the season and only re-signing him late in the year due to injuries across the roster. He may have only played in three games in 2015, but the taste of being cut and sitting out most of the season was enough to motivate Pryor heading into 2016.
Despite the revolving door of starting quarterbacks for the Browns last season, which even saw Pryor take a few snaps, he was still able to reach the 1,000-yard receiving mark. Of his 77 receptions in 2016, 48 resulted in first downs. He finished the season averaging 13.1 yards per catch, totaling 1,007 yards and four touchdowns.
His size allows him to compete for contested catches down field and pluck a ball out of the air right over a defender. His catch radius makes him a formidable receiver regardless of experience, plus he’s got great hand-eye coordination — thanks in part to his QB days.
Pryor is the kind of guy who posts pictures and videos of most of his workouts, trying to prove that he puts in the time to get better even in the offseason. He only has one full, successful season at receiver, and he needs a “prove it” season to earn his spot in the NFL long term.
Pryor’s QB needs a big year too
Despite Pryor’s interest in staying with Cleveland, both sides were too far apart financially, and the Browns let him walk without much of a counter offer on the table.
Now, Pryor finds himself in an unfamiliar town with an unfamiliar coach, on a team that throughout the offseason fired its GM (Scot McCloughan) and had been unable to secure its quarterback to a long-term deal.
But amid a chaotic offseason for Washington, Pryor seems to be settling in with his new quarterback, Kirk Cousins.
The Cousins contract discussion has been brewing for at least two seasons, with several on-field remarks made by the quarterback. There was the “You like that!?” moment in 2015, and going up to McCloughan in 2016 asking “How do you like me now?”. His shenanigans were criticized online — but what isn’t these days? — and they ultimately fell on deaf ears as the offseason progressed.
In late February, the team (once again) issued Cousins the franchise tag, and now just weeks away from the start of the 2017 regular season, the two still haven’t been able to agree to a new contract. So Cousins will play the season on the tag, which could garner the quarterback big money and an extended deal next spring.
The last two seasons have been career years for Cousins. In both 2015 and 2016, the quarterback surpassed 4,000 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, and had at least a 67 percent completion rate. If he can keep this momentum heading into 2017, there’s no reason for Washington not to offer the big bucks to both Cousins and Pryor.
Pryor spoke to NFL Network’s Michael Robinson ahead of training camp about how he’s stayed close to Cousins during the offseason, talking all the time through texts and even sitting next to him in the film room. Pryor said his experience as a quarterback has helped them communicate.
“I really know how to talk to him,” Pryor said.
Both deals could come in tandem with each other. For Cousins to have a big year, Pryor will need to have consistently dominant performances, and vice versa. They’ve already started working out together, first at OTAs and then in training camp. It seems safe to say there is a budding bromance in Washington’s locker room.
Love ya bro!! I'll be ready to dominate for you in 17 days https://t.co/NgTwhOrEu7— Terrelle Pryor SR (@TerrellePryor) July 11, 2017
One guy who isn’t concerned about Pryor replicating his success from last year is his former wide receiver coach with the Browns, Al Saunders.
Pryor will have a better — consistent — quarterback in Washington than he did in Cleveland, and with two of Cousins’ frequent targets now with other teams, the Pryor should see a good amount of action at the start of the season.
This could be his last opportunity
Pryor may have the intangibles, but without a consistent track record of success at the position, he’s likely to garner less free agent interest than other options. He wasn’t the only wide receiver to sign a one-year deal heading into 2017, and he could find himself competing for a roster spot against experienced guys like Alshon Jeffery and Sammy Watkins in free agency next year.
The wideout’s price tag heading into free agency didn’t just scare away the Browns, but many other teams revoked their interest when they could no longer afford him. Pryor was fortunate to get the type of “prove it’”opportunity that he did with Washington, a team that had a hole at receiver and a quarterback who can get him the ball.
But he’s no rookie either. At 28 years old, Pryor’s career doesn’t have the same kind of legs as the incoming classes. Having been in the league since 2011, he’s already six years into a career that is just getting started.