Agent’s Take: Ten offensive bounce-back candidates who are out to prove they still belong


Each season, a different group of players face a crossroads or have something to prove for different reasons. The most common reasons have to do with age, contract or salary cap, injuries, poor performance or problems off the field.

Here are 10 offensive players, who aren’t quarterbacks, who fit into one of those categories to watch in 2022.

Elliott has been going in the wrong direction statistically since he became the first running back in league history to sign a $100 million contract. The two-time rushing champion signed a $90 million six-year contract extension shortly before the start of the 2019 regular season, making him the NFL’s highest-paid running back. Elliott, who still had two years left on his rookie contract, set new standards for running backs with $50,052,137 in general guarantees and $28,052,137 fully guaranteed at the signing of the deal.

Elliott averaged 58.9 rushing yards per game in his career last season. Before his contract extension, Elliott averaged 101.2 rushing yards per game. Elliott was not Dallas’ most efficient running back last season. It was Tony Pollard, who some say is the best coming back to the Cowboys roster.

If that proves to be the case this season, it’s hard to imagine Elliott returning to the Cowboys in 2023. It would probably be a necessity to part with Elliott to keep Pollard, who is on a contract year. There’s already speculation that Elliott will be released off-season next season, regardless of what happens to Pollard.

Elliott is slated to make $10.9 million with a salary cap of $16.72 million in 2023. The Cowboys would have $11.86 million in dead money, a cap for a player no longer on a team’s roster. state, by letting Elliott go without using a post-June 1 designation.

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Thomas missed the 2021 season after suffering a setback while recovering from ankle surgery he had in June. The Saints were already frustrated with Thomas having waited until several weeks before training camp to have surgery on the left ankle injury during the 2020 season.

The 2020 season was also a challenge for Thomas. He was the subject of trade rumors after a one-game suspension for a practice fight with a teammate and limited to seven games in the regular season because of the ankle.

Thomas has been an afterthought in the best wide receiver discussions with the emergence of several younger players to the positions over the past two seasons. In 2019, Thomas’ last healthy season, he set the only record for receptions with 149 and was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

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Barkley’s stellar debut season, leading the NFL with 2,028 yards from scrimmage (combined rushing and receiving yards) and earning the 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, seems like a distant memory. He had a lackluster 2021 in his return from a 2020 season in which he was limited to two games due to a torn right ACL. Barkley had 593 rushing yards last season with 3.7 yards per carry in 13 games. The second overall pick in the 2018 draft is at risk from his five-year rookie contract, averaging $7,682,350 per year, including his current $7.217 million annual option salary, the biggest deal of his NFL career.

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Robinson’s contract year, when he played under a $17.88 million franchise, left a lot to be desired. The 2021 season was Robinson’s worst NFL campaign (except in 2017 when he tore his left ACL in the Jaguars’ season opener). Robinson had 36 catches for 410 yards with one touchdown in 12 games, which can be attributed in part to an injury-laden season in which he never built chemistry with rookie quarterback Justin Fields.

Nevertheless, the Rams signed Robinson to a three-year deal of $46.5 million (valued up to $48 million through incentives) with $30.75 million fully guaranteed. Robinson can void its third year in 2024 by reaching 2,201 combined yards in 2022 and 2023. The Rams are counting on 2021 to be an anomaly since Robert Woods, who tore the ACL in his left knee during training last November, was traded to the Titans in a salary dump to accommodate Robinson’s signing.

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Stanley turned a 2019 All-Pro campaign into a five-year extension of $98.75 million worth up to $100 million through incentives with record guarantees for an offensive lineman contract mid-2020. There are just over $65, 5 million in total guarantees, where just over $58.8 million was fully guaranteed at signature.

Stanley has only played in two games since then. He suffered a left ankle injury at the end of the season that required surgery a few days after signing his contract. Stanley started the first game in 2021 before finally having additional ankle surgery during the season. Stanley has just been activated from the physically unable to perform list. A return to anything close to his previous level of play would be a big boost for the Ravens.

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Golladay received the biggest deal for a pass catcher in 2021 after the Lions refused to designate him as a franchise player. He signed a $72 million four-year contract (worth up to $76 million through incentives) with $40 million in warranties after various injuries limited him to five games in 2020. The 2019 Pro Bowl entrant had 37 catches for 521 yards and zero touchdowns in 14 games last season. Golladay will likely need to thrive in new head coach Brian Daboll’s offensive system this season or there won’t be a third year in New York, though his third day of the $4.5 million league bonus (coming March 17) was fully guaranteed. part March.

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Smith surpassed most reasonable contract projections when the Patriots signed him to a three-year deal averaging $12.5 million a year in 2021 for free agency. He set a record for the most money fully guaranteed in a tight ending contract at $31.25 million.

Smith didn’t come close to living up to the old adage of “to whom much is given, much is expected.” He had just 28 catches for 294 yards and one touchdown in 16 games last season, taking 47.64% of New England’s offensive snaps (525 of 1,102 plays). Among tight ends, Smith was 34th in the NFL in receptions and 31st in receiving yards. With another season like 2021, Smith won’t be there in 2023 to collect his $12 million salary.

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The Browns who signed Conklin to a $42 million three-year contract paid big dividends in 2020 as he earned All-Pro honors. A dislocated left elbow and a torn right patellar tendon confined Conklin to a career low of seven games last season. Conklin took a $4 million pay cut from $12 million to a fully guaranteed $8 million, in which he can recoup the money through off-season playtime incentives. He recently indicated that he would like to stay in Cleveland after this season. Conklin could benefit from a proper equipment market that boomed in 2021 with a return to his 2020 form this season. Last year, four right-wing tackles signed deals averaging $17 million or more.

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The lukewarm interest in free agency prompted Smith-Schuster to return to Pittsburgh last season for a one-year ‘prove-it’ deal worth $8 million. He was reportedly looking for more than $15 million a year in the open market.

Smith-Schuster didn’t prove much when a left shoulder injury put him out of the regular season after five games. He had 15 receptions for 129 yards with no touchdowns in those games. Smith-Schuster returned for a wild card playoff game against the Chiefs in which he had five catches for 26 yards.

There was less interest in Smith-Schuster during free agency this year than in 2021. He signed a $3.25 million one-year contract with the Chiefs worth up to $10.75 million through incentives. The Chiefs recently changed his contract to allow him to earn an additional $510,000 as his $510,000 in roster bonuses per game ($30,000 for each active game) was increased to $1.02 million ($60,000 for each active game).

Smith-Schuster has a great opportunity in Kansas City as there is no established number 1 wide receiver with Tyreek Hill’s trade to the dolphins. He could be positioned for the big payday that eluded him in free agency in March with a very productive 2022 season.

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Engram’s disappointing 2021 campaign with the Giants, where he caught 46 passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns, didn’t stop him from getting a $9 million one-year deal from the Jaguars, which included $8.25 million fully guaranteed . He can make as much as $10 million through incentives. The base value of the deal is not much less than the $9.293 million it would have cost the Giants to designate Engram as a transition player.

Engram could be in the right place to showcase itself for 2023 free agency. New Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson’s attack with the Eagles was tight and friendly. During his five seasons as head coach in Philadelphia, Zach Ertz averaged nearly 80 catches per year, including the record for NFL receptions for one season for a tight finish with 116 in 2018.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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