Free Agency: Notable One-Year Deals

Every offseason we see players betting on themselves for the upcoming season. Mike Renner looks at some of the one-year deals recently signed.

| 2 years ago

Free Agency: Notable One-Year Deals

fairley-one-yearEvery offseason we see players betting on themselves for the upcoming season saying that they can perform better than they have and, in turn, get a superior contract next offseason. Sometimes players need to prove their performance on the field, while other times they need to prove their performance off of it.

This year more than others, many high-profile players took prove-it deals to try and up their value for 2016. Let’s break down why each only got a one-year deal, how they figure to impact their new teams, and what kind of market they could get next offseason.

Terrance Knighton, DT, Washington Redskins

Why: Probably the biggest surprise one-year deal of the group. His production has outpaced that of Dan Williams the past two seasons, yet he couldn’t sniff his $6m+ per year average on the open market. There were reports of Knighton being out of shape at the start of free agency, but what 330-pound man can be classified as ‘in shape’? This looks more to be the case of the market not matching up with Knighton’s expectations and he’s betting that will change in a year’s time.

Impact: Fits perfectly in the middle of the Redskins line and will change the look of their run defense day one. Last season Kedric Golston, Chris Baker, Barry Cofield combined for 401 snaps at nose tackle last season and a -24.2 run defense grade. That’s unacceptable at the most important run defending position on the line. Knighton’s third-highest run defense grade among defensive tackle the last two years will be a godsend for Redskins fans everywhere.

2016 Market: Talent-wise he should easily get the same contract as Dan Williams got in Oakland. The problem is he’ll be 29 next year while Williams was 27 when he inked his 4-year, $25m, $15.2m guaranteed contract. If Knighton continues to dominate the interior, it’s hard to think he won’t at least be offered a deal in the area of $5m a year that Brandon Mebane currently has (five-year, $25m, $9m guaranteed).

Nick Fairley, DT, St. Louis Rams

Why: Unrealized potential is the reason for Fairley’s one-year deal. He’s flashed Top 5 contract type ability in the past, but has never put together a Top 5 type season.

Projection: If Fairley wanted a place where he would avoid double teams he certainly found it. He joins our No. 1 ranked defensive tackle from a year ago (Aaron Donald) and our top-ranked defensive end from 2013 (Robert Quinn) to form a stacked front in St. Louis. The former Lions defensive tackle was on his way to a monster season before a knee injury relegated him to just 297 snaps. He’s undersized, but showed three down type ability in Detroit. If he can stay on the field for the Rams, Fairley’s +27.3 grade over the last three seasons will fit in nicely.

2016 Market: Geno Atkins’ five-year, $53m, $15m guaranteed is likely the goal for Fairley. It will take a healthy season and he’ll need to match his career-high snap total (693), but if Fairley puts it all together a lucrative deal will be forthcoming.

Greg Hardy, DE, Dallas Cowboys

Why: Hardy was the defendant in a 2014 domestic assault case and could still face a suspension from the NFL.

Projection: Hardy may have only played 52 snaps last season, but there is nothing to suggest he isn’t the same player that would have commanded top dollar on the free agency market last offseason. He should be back to his old dominant self in 2015. The only question is whether he will be working mainly from his usual right side or the left with Jeremy Mincey already entrenched as the right end.

2016 Market: The intense public scrutiny of Hardy will likely die down enough in a year that more teams will be willing to pay for his services. At that point, if he continues to play at a high level, he’s likely to at least match the averages of his former teammate Charles Johnson’s six-year, $76m, $32m guaranteed deal.

Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Arizona Cardinals

Why: Weatherspoon missed all of the 2014 season with an Achilles injury.

Projection: The replacement for Larry Foote in Arizona, Weatherspoon figures to be an upgrade in all facets. Foote blitzed 187 times last season, the most among inside linebackers in the NFL, but he was also one of the least effective with a Pass Rushing Productivity of 7.9 (29th out of 32). In Weatherspoon’s last full season in 2012 he led all 4-3 outside linebackers with a Pass Rushing Productivity of 20.2 and could be well set up for a bounce back season.

2016 Market: A return to form likely won’t catapult the 27-year-old Weatherspoon into the upper echelon of linebacker contracts, but It would put him above a contract like Jon Beason’s three-year, $17m, $6m guaranteed that he signed last offseason. The goal is around Daryl Washington’s four-year, $32m, $5m guaranteed deal, with a little more guaranteed cash.

Henry Melton, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Why: 2015 marks Melton’s third straight season on a one-year contract. The first came via the franchise tag from the Bears in 2013. After an ACL injury that season the market for his services shrunk considerably and he signed for one year in Dallas. Now this one-year deal seems to stem from Melton’s limited snap counts. The defensive tackle was solely a pass rusher last season playing 433 snaps, and although he excelled in them, teams were hesitant to dole out big money to a part-time player.

Projection: There is an obvious connection with Melton returning to Lovie Smith under whom he had the best years of his career in Chicago. What doesn’t make sense is why he didn’t go to a team that would have used him as a starter. Melton isn’t stout enough against the run to be Gerald McCoy’s counterpart and certainly won’t unseat McCoy from his starting position. Melton again projects to be a productive sub-package player and should have the same playing time question marks surrounding him next offseason.

2016 Market: It’s hard to see teams changing their mind on Melton next offseason and his market will still be limited to 4-3/1-gap teams due to his size and ability. The best case scenario is a pass rush needy team pays Melton like the run defense needy Falcons paid Paul Soliai last offseason (5-years, $32m, $11m guaranteed).

Percy Harvin, WR, Buffalo Bills

Why: After skating through two different teams in the last year, Harvin was in no position to command a long-term deal. Reported locker room fights, refusal to play, and a lengthy injury history all played a factor in this one.

Projection: An odd choice for Harvin going to one of the worst passing offenses in the NFL a year ago that already has a budding No. 1 receiver in Sammy Watkins. Again there is some comfort with Harvin going back to Rex Ryan who coached him last year in New York, but Rex Ryan isn’t the offensive coordinator. Greg Roman has shown a propensity for creative play calling from his time in San Francisco and will think up ways to get Harvin the ball, but there are only so many ways to get a receiver the ball before the quarterback’s skill has to take over.

2016 Market: The goal would be to get his old six-year, $64m, $14.5m guaranteed contract back, but that ship has sailed at this point. If Harvin is on his best behavior, someone might trust the 26-year-old enough to dole out a deal in the vicinity of Greg Jennings’ old contract (five-year, $45m, $17.8m guaranteed). I just don’t see him putting up enough numbers in the Bills’ offense to command that deal, though, and he may be looking for a prove-it deal yet again next offseason.


Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_Mike


| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • Jason Williams

    McDonald Bears?

    • Tim Edell

      I wouldn’t put the McDonald signing into the same article as Knighton, Fairley, Hardy, and Harvin

  • Jaguars28

    I love the Knighton and Fairley signings, and the Melton and Weatherspoon signings as well.

    • bobrulz

      Yeah, I’m kind of mad that the Broncos couldn’t even come up with $4 million to match. Not sure I’m a fan of what Elway did this free agency period, especially in regards to Knighton and Moore, both very talented players that have done a lot for the Broncos are were both had at a bargain by other teams.

  • Jason

    Is Melton getting another 1 year deal that “notable”?

  • Frank Cole

    Harvin – I don’t know about that. Buffalo should have a dynamite play-action with McCoy, by far Cassel’s strongest suit, with Harvin being the natural target. 80 yards and 1 TD a game is easily doable. Moss went over 1000 yards with 11 scores in 2008 and Cassel is better now than when he was still learning the NFL.

    • eYeDEF

      Cassel? Seriously? The last time Cassel had a decent season was 5 years ago. Over the 4 years since then he’s thrown 30 TDs to 34 picks, truly a mediocre QB. He’s also a terrible QB under pressure and unless you’re expecting Richie Incognito to do more good than harm and transform the entire line I don’t see how the OL can play capably enough to even give Cassel a shot to break his string of mediocre seasons. He’s declined every year and last year before he got injured was absolutely horrendous. I really don’t see how Cassel can be viewed as an upgrade over Kyle Orton. And even on his best behavior Harvin is a gadget player and Roman has his work cut out for him getting the ball in his hands in space. If it were easy to get him to produce with consistency then the last two offensive coordinators he had would have done it. Maybe Rex can unlock his potential, but it sure was few and way too far between that Harvin did anything when playing for Ryan’s Jets with Morhinweg as OC.

    • Brian Dugan

      So Frank, 1280 yards and 16 TDs is easily doable for Percy Harvin?

    • Cant FixStupid

      WOW!! Did you really just say Cassel is better today than in 2008?? In what world are you living??? Cassel was benched with a 65.8 passer rating last year in 3 games. He’s horrible. The Vikes didn’t bench him just to give Bridgewater the job, they benched Cassel cause he was horrible. But yeah, good luck with him. And 80 yards and a TD is easily doable for Harvin?? Haha.