There is no doubt that Hakeem Nicks has a boatload of talent, and he is a true No. 1 wide receiver in every sense due to his size, speed, ball skills, and route-running. Nicks was never going to stick around with the New York Giants after a disastrous contract year in which he showed a complete lack of motivation and caught just 56 passes with no TDs (at least he had a nifty 896 receiving yards). Nicks had interest at the trade deadline, and I’m sure the Giants regret holding onto him in the hopes that he would turn things around as the season went on.
Nicks unsurprisingly received significant interest on the free agent market, and he’s an even more talented wideout than Eric Decker. But he also has more question marks than Decker thanks to nagging injuries and character concerns stemming from last season. But he’s well-worth the gamble for teams looking for another wide receiver. The Carolina Panthers were desperate for a wideout, but the North Carolina native decided to take a prove-it deal with the Indianapolis Colts yesterday on a free agent visit. A third contender in the San Francisco 49ers had interest, and they also have a solid WR pairing.
The Colts have gave Nicks a one-year deal worth $3.5 million with $2 million in incentives to add to that, and a one-year, incentive-laden deal was all Nicks was going to feasibly get. He obviously wanted a long-term deal and some security, but nobody would ever give that kind of a contract to him due to those aforementioned concerns.
I don’t think Nicks could have ended up in a better landing spot than the one he currently finds himself in, because he has pretty much no pressure from the Colts organization to prove himself. They know this deal comes with very little risk since it lasts just one year, and they already have two great wide receivers in young speedster T.Y. Hilton and the steady Reggie Wayne. Nicks also has an even better quarterback throwing passes to him in Andrew Luck, and that’s not even mentioning the Colts talented TE duo of Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener.
The lack of pressure on Nicks to produce as well as the “prove-it” nature of the deal definitely benefit the Colts organization, but I also think they benefit Nicks. He came into his contract year in 2013 with the wrong mindset, as he simply believed that he could mail-it-in in order to avoid a serious injury and still get paid. Nicks’s worries regarding a potential injury weren’t unwarranted, but now he realizes that there are more ways to hurt your free agent stock. With better first-hand experience on how to approach a contract year and with a renewed sense of urgency to land a big paycheck, a prove-it deal should help bring out the best in Nicks. Because if he can’t play up to his All-Pro-level talent for the Colts in 2014, then he’s headed for even less money- and interest- next offseason. And if that isn’t enough motivation, Nicks would lose $2 million in incentives if he doesn’t produce.
Hakeem Nicks had over 70 receptions, 1,000 yards, and seven touchdowns in 2010 and 2011, so it’s been two years since he played like a No. 1 wideout. It’s time for the uber-athletic wide receiver to play up to his potential, and the Colts certainly don’t have to worry about him busting. They can easily move on from him after this season, are only on the hook for $3.5 million, and will get plenty of production out of their other pass-catchers and their star QB who is heading into his third season.
The upside of this deal is easy to see, as a healthy and motivated Nicks would make the Colts offense unstoppable and allow them to use the elite arm of Andrew Luck even more. He will have a wideout who can dominate in a variety of ways, especially on difficult passes downfield or in traffic that require a receiver to use all-worldly athleticism and ball skills. Nicks has both, and the $5.5 million that they would pay if he doe match the incentives is an excellent price indeed. The fit looks great for both sides, and Nicks is in a perfect situation to go off and have another 1,100-yard season. If he doesn’t, though, then he will have some major questions to answer, and the Colts will have other guys to put up big numbers in that offense with Luck slinging it.