Hakeem Nicks' Best Bet in Free Agency Is to Prove Worth on 1-Year Deal

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IMarch 11, 2014

Dec 8, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (88) tries to stiff arm San Diego Chargers cornerback Richard Marshall (31) during second half action at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks has the kind of ability that could lead to a premium contract for a wide receiver in the NFL. Coming off of two injury-plagued seasons, however, he isn't likely to get a contract like that this year. 

Nicks has played in 28 games over the past two seasons, but he's been hampered by nagging injuries. As a result, his numbers have taken a huge hit. 

Despite receiving over 100 targets in each of the last two seasons, Nicks has combined for just 109 catches, 1,588 yards and three touchdowns. 

Last season, as Around the League's Chris Wesseling noted on NFL.com, Nicks was the first receiver to ever see over 100 targets and not record a touchdown. 

Despite this, in a shallow free-agent pool at wide receiver, Nicks will still get his share of attention. 

CBS' Will Brinson passed along NFL.com's Ian Rapoport's thoughts that the Carolina Panthers are "the most likely landing spot" for Nicks:

The Panthers badly need an upgrade at wide receiver, and Nicks' explosiveness would help open up the offense.

Still, Nicks isn't likely to get a lucrative long-term deal. There are too many concerns over his health and what he has left in the tank.  

Wesseling also noted that "a litany of leg and foot injuries have sapped Nicks' explosiveness the past two years." 

In an effort to ease teams' concern over his injuries, Nicks sent a letter, via Chris Mortensen of ESPN, from Dr. Robert Anderson and Dr. James Andrews to all teams that clears Nicks physically. 

Still, being physically fine does not mean Nicks will regain the explosiveness that helped him to top the 1,000-yard mark in 2010 and 2011. In the Giants' Super Bowl run in 2011, Nicks exploded for 28 catches and 444 yards with four touchdowns in the postseason. 

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05:  Hakeem Nicks #88 of the New York Giants celebrates after a first down against the New England Patriots in the fourth quarter during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Nicks believes he can still perform at that level. “I still consider myself one of the top receivers in this league," Nicks was quoted as saying in the New York Post by Paul Schwartz, "and I’m going to go out and prove it.’’

On top of that, Mortensen reported that Nicks is willing to prove that on a one-year deal.

This is the right approach for Nicks. 

The free-agent market for wide receivers is rather shallow. Still, there is far too much risk involved with Nicks for him to get a lucrative long-term contract. 

It will only take Nicks one season of performing at his 2010 and 2011 level to raise his value. He will be just 27 at the end of next season, and there is always a market for wide receivers who can perform. 

Although another injury-plagued season will further hurt Nicks' value, his potential financial reward after a big season makes that small risk worth it.