While NFL free agency may have started on Tuesday, teams won't be fighting for top-tier wide receivers this year, as this year's class isn't the best. However, with Hakeem Nicks now a free agent, he presents a high-risk, high-reward scenario that may intrigue several teams.
At just 26 years old, Nicks is still in his prime years as an NFL wide receiver after playing five seasons with the New York Giants. However, he is coming off of a rough 2013 season, catching 56 passes for 896 yards and no touchdowns while the Giants finished the year with a 7-9 record.
Now, Nicks is set to choose from whichever teams offer him a contract, and while he may pose a risk due to a number of reasons, the potential is there for him to become a serious weapon for whichever quarterback he joins forces with.
Given his production in previous seasons and his age, Nicks will likely be getting a number of calls from NFL teams, and according to ESPN's Josina Anderson, the 26-year-old had this to say about entering free agency:
Ideally this is what I want. I want to go to a team where I'm the missing link. There are a number of teams that I have my eye on once I hit the market. I know if I went to a place like Indianapolis, I would be dangerous with a quarterback like Andrew Luck. I can see myself catching passes from Cam Newton or even Philip Rivers.
Players have already started to reach out to me from other teams saying they would love for me to come join them. I just want to make it clear that I want a long-term deal and I want to be happy. I'm excited about talking to teams and making it work.
While he may not have had a touchdown this past season, Nicks showed serious promise during his first three seasons with the Giants, catching 202 passes for 3,034 yards and 24 touchdowns. In 2010, he played in just 13 games, but that didn't keep him from posting 1,052 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.
However, over the past two years Nicks has seen his production decline along with his health. In 2012, he caught just 53 passes for 692 yards and three scores, giving him two straight years of less-than-ideal numbers given what he had done before.
The other concern for Nicks entering free agency is the fact that he's been dealing with nagging foot and knee injuries. He's only missed four games over the past two seasons, but the injuries have clearly kept him from being as productive as he could have been.
The good news for Nicks is that he appears to be healthy. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Nicks reportedly sent out medical assurances from two top specialists that claimed his previous injuries won't limit him in 2014.
Mortensen's report also claims that Nicks is open to a one-year deal, which means that teams may be more willing to take a risk on him due to the fact that bringing him in would be less of a risk financially.
There are a number of teams that could use Nicks' services, especially if he's healthy and willing to sign a short-term deal. The Indianapolis Colts could use another receiver as Reggie Wayne is coming off of a torn ACL and is approaching the end of his career, and Nicks mentioned he would like playing with Andrew Luck.
Another team that makes a lot of sense is the Carolina Panthers. According to Steve Reed from the Associated Press, Steve Smith's agent, Derrick Fox, believes the five-time Pro Bowler won't be playing for the Panthers next year. There was already a need at receiver for Carolina, and this will make that need even bigger.
Will Brinson from CBS Sports passed on a report from NFL Network's Ian Rapoport over Twitter that Carolina seems to be the most likely landing spot for Nicks.
There's a lot to like about Nicks, and there's a chance that he breaks out in 2014 with whichever team he plays for. However, given his dip in production and the previous injuries, Nicks is still a risk, and he creates an interesting scenario for any team looking to bring him in.