5 NFL Players Sure to Earn Monster Contracts After Amazing 2012 Seasons
Five NFL players can use spectacular 2012 seasons to ensure they collect a monster pay day before the start of the 2013 campaign.
Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Mike Wallace heads the list and he is joined by two under-the-radar tight ends, an NFC South linebacker and an AFC East safety, all set to be hugely productive this season.
These players are ready to take on bigger roles this year and their numbers are sure to improve.
For some, the incentive of signing a franchise tender this offseason and having one year to justify a huge contract will be enough to produce an amazing season.
For others, it will be the chance to emerge from relative obscurity and announce themselves to the rest of the league.
Here are the five players sure to earn monster contracts following amazing 2012 seasons.
Fred Davis, TE, Washington Redskins
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After signing his one-year franchise tender, Fred Davis has the 2012 season to prove he merits a lucrative, long-term deal. The issue isn't talent, but temperament.
Davis is a genuine playmaker at the tight end position. He is perhaps the most prolific downfield threat for the Washington Redskins' pass offense.
The fifth-year pro was on his way to a true breakout campaign in 2011 before disciplinary problems cost him the final four games.
Davis was suspended for drug abuse and must show that he can avoid similar troubles and stay committed. If he can, the 26-year-old has a chance to break 1,000 yards and earn that monster contract.
Jared Cook, TE, Tennessee Titans
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Jared Cook should become a major part of the Tennessee Titans' pass attack this season. The 25-year-old displayed a knack for the big play in 2011 and can only get better.
Cook averaged 15.5 yards per reception and scored two touchdowns on plays over 50 yards.
NFL.com reported that Cook is looking for a new contract as he comes to end of his original rookie contract.
If he continues to showcase the ability to stretch a defense from anywhere on the field, Cook should have no problem earning a lucrative deal.
Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Atlanta Falcons
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Sean Weatherspoon is a rising star at linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons. The 24-year-old is set for an even bigger role this season following the free-agency departure of Curtis Lofton.
Weatherspoon can become the focal point of Atlanta's run defense. His speed, range and tenacity should see him thrive under new coordinator Mike Nolan.
The experienced play-caller should be able to find plenty of ways to feature Weatherspoon's athleticism.
If the 6'2", 244-pounder can improve on last season's tally of 115 tackles and four sacks, he should find it easy to convince the Falcons to quickly upgrade his rookie contract.
Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
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Mike Wallace will get a mega deal after the 2012 season. Whether it's with the Pittsburgh Steelers is another matter entirely.
The talented young flanker continues to be engaged in a standoff with the six-time Super Bowl winners regarding his next contract. A restricted free agent, Wallace has so far refused to sign his franchise tender and is seeking financial terms on a par with the NFL's elite receivers.
Wallace certainly has the big-play capability to justify a monster contract. The 25-year-old is arguably the league's most dangerous deep threat and is able to challenge any secondary vertically.
He has notched over 1,100 yards in each of the last two seasons and has added 18 touchdowns in that time frame. A similar performance this season will surely see someone make Wallace one of the league's highest-paid pass catchers.
Jairus Byrd, S, Buffalo Bills
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Jairus Byrd is set to be a free agent following the 2012 season. Given how productive he has been for the Buffalo Bills, the 25-year-old should play his way into a monster new contract.
Byrd recorded 98 tackles in 2011 to improve on the 89 he notched in 2010.
A natural ball hawk, Byrd has developed into a complete safety. He has built on his spectacular 2009 rookie campaign when he snared nine interceptions.
Dave Wannstedt's promotion to defensive coordinator should see Byrd be even more of a force this year. Wannstedt has traditionally favored a defensive system which forces both run and pass plays toward the safeties.
Along with a fearsome pass rush—featuring Mario Williams and Mark Anderson—the schematic changes should see Byrd enjoy his finest season and be rewarded with a huge new deal.