Colts Sign Hakeem Nicks
The Colts entered free agency with more salary cap space than any other team who made the playoffs in 2013. Early rumors had them linked to wide receiver Eric Decker, but after he signed with the Jets they turned their sights to another wide receiver with a 1,000-plus yard and 10-plus touchdown season in his past — Hakeem Nicks. Friday evening, the Colts signed Nicks to a one-year, $3.5 million contract with added incentives that could escalate his salary up to $5.5 million total.
Nicks’ market developed much slower than he initially expected, and he had to settle on a one-year, “prove it” deal rather than the long-term contract he had originally hoped to sign. A fallacy I have seen written is that we should all upgrade Nicks because he’s playing for a contract. Nicks was also playing for a contract this past season for the Giants, when he couldn’t manage one touchdown despite starting 15 games.
It’s fair to wonder what happened to Nicks. In early 2012, he torched Aqib Talib for 199 yards on 10 catches. In that same game he aggravated a prior foot injury and since then an argument can be made that he has never looked the same. Both players were free agents this offseason, but the contracts they settled for couldn’t have been any more different.
Nicks finished 2013 as the 50th-best wide receiver overall out of 75 qualifiers who played at least 50% of their team’s snaps. If you take out his penalty grade, which was an unusually high +2.2, he would have finished 62nd. Nicks struggled with drops, and ended up dropping seven passes on the season, which was five more than in 2012. Nicks’ trademark ability to win at the catch point on 50-50 and back-shoulder fades was gone — he secured just seven out 20 passes thrown to him 20+ yards downfield.
Recently, Nicks has gone to excessive lengths to prove that multiple doctors deem him completely healthy for 2014. If Nicks can return to full health, he would fit perfectly in the role previously occupied by Darrius Heyward-Bey. As recently as 2011, Nicks had the 11th-best catch rate on passes 20+ yards. This will be a perfect fit for his new quarterback Andrew Luck, who has been a great deep passer as recently as 2012 under Bruce Arians.
All signs point to the Colts opening up the playbook this year and allowing Luck to let it rip. After unsuccessfully attempting to install a run-based offense, offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton finally allowed Luck to air it out in the NFL Playoffs and the team was successful doing so. Remember, back in 2012, Luck attempted the most passes of 20+ yards (101) — he racked up 1,116 yards and nine touchdowns on these attempts.
Nicks projects as a full-blown boom-or-bust pick in 2014. If he returns to full health, his skill set is perfect for the kind of contested throws that Luck will try in one-on-one coverage. A healthy Nicks has the potential to reach a WR1 ceiling and become the focal point of the team’s passing game. However, from looking at the film of his last two seasons, questions about his explosion and separation skills are fair to ask. Some may even wonder if he’s still focused on becoming a top wide receiver again. These concerns make him a risky investment on draft day.
Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out our new Mock and Companion Draft Tool! Utilizing our updated player projections, run a quick mock draft and see where this year’s crop of free agents are coming off the board in early fantasy football drafts.