Former New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks has signed a one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts, according to Adam Schefter. The NFL Network reports that the deal is for a $3.5 million base salary with a chance to earn more through incentives.
That there's the rub -- the incentives.
Incentive was something Nicks appeared to lack as he lollygagged his way through his final season with the Giants in 2013. He failed to catch a touchdown pass all year and frustrated coaches with his inability to get open and make plays in the passing game. He was especially invisible in the red zone, and in interviews he made repeated references to "my situation," meaning his impending free agency, to explain certain of his decisions and behaviors. It seemed clear that his chief motivation was to stay healthy so that he could cash in as a free agent.
However, it does not appear that he has done so. Nicks' performance on and off the field in 2013 lowered his stock in the eyes of potentially interested teams, and there was concern that his nonchalance about the whole thing and his postseason decision to switch to Jay-Z's Roc Nation for representation indicated that football wasn't his primary concern.
For all of those reasons, my first reaction to this deal was that the Colts are nuts. Who would want Nicks on a one-year deal after seeing the way he performed in a contract year in 2013?
But Nicks isn't a bad guy, and until this past year he'd never given any indication that he was a me-first player. He just turned 26 in January, so he's still quite young, and it's possible he learned from what happened in 2013. Perhaps whatever incentives are in his contract will do their job and remind him to put forth more effort than he did when the Giants needed him so badly in 2013. Perhaps what happened with Nicks in 2013 had more to do with the overall collapse of the Giants' offense, and the pass-happy Colts and Andrew Luck will pump his numbers back up and he'll get his big deal next year, when the salary cap is expected to rise significantly again.
Perhaps the one-year deal is merely a stepping stone to a longer deal, and if the Colts like him he could continue talks and sign an extension during the season.
From the Giants' end, though, they're moving on. This is a 26-year-old Super Bowl champion who was their first-round draft pick five years ago and has a track record of performing like a true No. 1 receiver, and they let him walk out the door for peanuts. That means they decided they didn't want him anymore. Given the way this past season went and ended, it's no surprise that the Giants made that decision. But as was the case Thursday with Justin Tuck, the Giants could have kept Nicks if they'd wanted to, quite easily, and instead decided to move on.
The decision is defensible, obviously, but they still do need an outside wide receiver unless they believe Rueben Randle is ready to make the leap in 2014 as Nicks' replacement. He showed little in 2013 to prove that, but given what's left on the market, they may have little choice.