Every season we see a familiar trend in a group of NFL footballers – those who outperform their previous seasons to chase that big next contract and this year will be no different. Let’s take a look at the players in the NFC West who will be noticeably straining for every penny next off-season when their deals are up for renewal.
Michael Floyd recently summed up how important this year’s performance is on the following players next deals, “Basically the ball’s in my court, how I perform is all up to me.”
The issue for Floyd is that the Cardinals roster is stacked with good receivers right now, including Fitzgerald, both John Brown’s and JJ Nelson all fighting for snaps, and with a lot of big name players contracts up this year, Floyd may end up on the open market. As he says though, this is up to him.
In one of the strangest deals of the off season, 14 sack Jones was traded from the Pats in exchange for a guard the Pats don’t need and a 2nd round pick. It must be assumed that the Patriots knew they would not be able to resign Jones and therefore got what they could when they could.
If he is able to perform as well as last season Chandler Jones will be an expensive player.
One of many parts of the trade which resulted in Robert Griffin III being drafted by the Redskins, Brockers has become the quiet partner to Aaron Donald at the centre of the Rams strong D-line. Brockers must be more than aware that with Donald and Robert Quinn within the same position group how much he needs to help the Rams succeed this year to earn his new deal.
Having lost Janoris Jenkins and Rodney McLeod in free agency, the Rams will be looking for the likes of McDonald to step up this season. The season may not start as planned for the defensive back as he may well be looking at a ban to start the season for a DUI in the off season.
He has shown masses of potential however when called upon and will have even more to prove to the team given his misdemeanours.
Greg ‘The Leg’ Zuerlein
Greg Zuerlein will really need to prove himself this year after seemingly being given an extra life by the Rams having only made around 60% of his kicks last season. He has shown masses of potential and will strive to find his previous form.
A 16 game starter in 2015 Ian Williams, Williams now faces a battle to make the squad thanks to ankle surgery. He signed a 5 year deal in the off season but this was reduced to 1 year given the injury.
He remains unlikely to make week 1 for the 49ers but when he returns will be playing with a big chip on his shoulder and something to prove in order to re-earn that large deal.
Having brought in Chip Kelly as coach in San Francisco, many will rightly assume the offence will be run heavy this year. I would argue however that with so many plays being run by the offence that the wide receiver group are equally important to the new coach.
This can be backed up when you take a look at the amount of receivers used by Kelly for the Eagles. Production was shared almost equally between Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, Riley Cooper and in some part rookie Nelson Agholar.
Quinton Patton may be unknown to many right now, but as the potential number 2 receiver, you can expect to hear a lot more about this player in his contract year.
The Enigma Blaine Gabbert is in a battle to be the starting quarterback of the 49ers with Colin Kaepernick who sounds ready for his second chance.
Gabbert performed well last season having looked washed up in Jacksonville. Even if he does not win the quarterback battle this season, has surely earned himself a spot on the roster of another struggling side looking for help.
Perhaps the least known and certainly most underestimated on the whole list is Seahawks Corner Deshawn Shead. Shead took over at corner after the failed Cary Williams experiment and looked every bit a starting corner.
He helped the Seahawks rescue a season going from 2-4 to 10-6 and the Playoffs. The one thing standing in Shead’s way when it comes to contract time is the fact that the Seahawks have a lot of money already invested in the secondary and have already said goodbye to starters Brandon Browner and Byron Maxwell when their contracts came up for renewal.
Hill has some massive shoes to fill with the loss of Brandon Mebane. Jordan Hill has shown flashes of a brilliant player when called upon with some crucial sacks as a third down rusher.
Now in competition to start with run-stuffers free agent Sealver Siliga and rookie Jarran Read, Hill will be determined to show his worth to both the Seahawks and potential suitors alike.
Every Season the Seahawks hit reset on their offensive line. This off season was no different with Gilliam set to be the new Left Tackle. If he has a good season he will expect to be paid as such and we already know that the Seahawks aren’t keen on investing heavily in the offensive line, evidenced by the exit of Russell Okung and JR Sweezy this off season, could it be one and done for Gilliam on the blindside this year?
Duncan is a Seahawks fan from Brighton, now living in Glasgow. You can follow Duncan on Twitter at @DuncanJTerry.