Colts Sign Hakeem Nicks: Grading the Move and What It Means for Indianapolis

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystMarch 15, 2014

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Since taking over as general manager of the Indianapolis Colts in 2012, there hasn't been a more aggressive head honcho in the NFL than Ryan Grigson.

Well, Grigson and the Colts are at it again, and the latest development in another active offseason in Indy has Andrew Luck's beard doing a happy dance.

Yes, he shaved it off. But it lives. It...lives.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, on Friday the Colts agreed to terms on a one-year contract with wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who caught 56 passes for 896 yards in 2013 for the New York Giants:

The NFL Network's Albert Breer had terms of the deal:

Schefter reports the maximum amount of the contract is $5.5 million, while Stephen Holder of The Indianapolis Star reported that Grigson is very happy to have the 26-year-old Nicks in the fold:

Hakeem is a big, tough and highly competitive wide receiver who knows what it takes to win. His big-play potential requires attention from the defense every time he's out on the field. He adds another highly-talented playmaker to our offense and we are happy to announce he is now an Indianapolis Colt.

Grigson should be happy. From a value and fit standpoint, this is one of the best signings of free agency to date, a deal Chris Wesseling of NFL.com called "easily one of our favorite pairings of free agency's first week."

For starters, it wasn't that long ago Nicks was considered one of the top young wide receivers in the NFL.

Hakeem Nicks Career Stats
YearGamesRec.YardsAvg.TDPFF Rank*
*Per Pro Football Focus

In both 2010 and 2011, the 6'1", 208-pound Nicks topped 1,000 receiving yards. He caught 18 touchdown passes over that stretch, ranking as a top-15 wide receiver at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) each of those years.

After reeling in 10 passes for 109 yards in the Giants' win in Super Bowl XLVI, the sky looked to be the limit for Nicks.

Then it fell in.

Nicks broke his foot in May 2012. The five-year veteran still played in 13 games in 2012, but his foot and knee hampered Nicks throughout the season. His numbers free-fell.

Things didn't go any better in 2013. While teammate Victor Cruz got his big extension from Big Blue, sometimes acrimonious negotiations between the Giants and Nicks went nowhere.

So did the Giants last year, lurching their way to a 7-9 season in which Nicks was the only wide receiver in the entire NFL with over 100 targets and zero touchdown catches.

Set against the backdrop of those two down years, and with Nicks having missed time in all five of his NFL seasons, it's hardly a surprise that Nicks' health was the 800-pound gorilla in the room as free agency got underway.

However, as Holder pointed out, Nicks made it no secret he was amenable to playing in 2014 under a one-year "prove it" deal, and according to Holder's sources, there was plenty of poking and prodding before the deal was done:

Granted, seeing is believing where Nicks' health is concerned, but if he's anywhere close to the Nicks of 2010-11 with the Colts this season, then this deal goes from the equivalent of a double off the wall to a 500-foot moon shot.

Yes, that was a baseball analogy. My apologies.

The Colts may have won the AFC South and a playoff game in 2013, but there's no denying that, after wide receiver Reggie Wayne tore his ACL, Indy's offense lost a large measure of consistency.

Grigson told Tom James of The Terre Haute Tribune-Star the team is optimistic that Wayne will be ready for training camp, but at 35 years old, it's hardly a sure bet.

Of course, neither is Nicks, but he provides an insurance policy of sorts, in that Nicks is more than capable of serving as the intermediate and red-zone threat Wayne has become at this point in his career.

And if both players are healthy? Well then, in Wayne, Nicks and T.Y. Hilton, Luck and the Colts would have one of the best wide receiver trios in the NFL. Add in an emerging Coby Fleener at tight end, and Luck should have no shortage of targets at his disposal in the passing game this year.

Heaven help the rest of the league if the team gets some sort of run game going.

None of that is certain of course, but you can't do a much better job of mitigating risk than signing Nicks for about the same annual salary that the Arizona Cardinals just gave Ted Ginn.

And you can't do a much better job in free agency than Grigson did with this signing.

Grade: A+


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