The 2017 Seahawks have a number of players with “prove-it” contracts in camp this year — one-year deals for players who are looking to either establish themselves as starters in the NFL or rejuvenate their careers.
General Manager John Schneider and his staff signed the following players to one-year deals this offseason:
Oday Aboushi, OG
Luke Joeckel, OT
Dion Jordan, DE
Eddie Lacy, RB
Bradley McDougald, S
Blair Walsh, K
Michael Wilhoite, LB
Luke Willson, TE
All but tight end Luke Willson are from other teams and fall into the category of players looking to restart and refresh their careers. There is a perception that players who are either playing out the last year of a deal they signed earlier or a one-year “prove it” contract are unsettled, and maybe even nervous, about their future in the NFL. A lot of Seahawks fans and Kam Chancellor himself were relieved to see his contract extended this pre-season, for example.
But not everyone thinks of it that way. Before my last season in Seattle in 1992, I signed a one-year deal and it put a chip on my shoulder in a good way. I found it to be very motivational and felt that I was betting on myself. I did get injured in the 10th game of the season, but I played well enough to earn a three-year deal with the Denver Broncos in the first year of Plan B free-agency in 1993.
Willson feels the same way I did.
“For me, it’s a combination of ‘prove it’ and betting on myself,” he said.
Luke Joeckel echoed that sentiment.
“It’s a lot of pressure because the proper term is definitely that it’s a ‘prove it’ deal, but it’s a good pressure,” he said. “You’ve gotta go out there and perform and I’m excited for the challenge.”
Bradley McDougald told me that he feels like every year is a one-year deal.
I think most people would be surprised what players do, and don’t, think about when it comes to their contract situations. One year during practice I was asked by one of my teammates how much my salary was that particular year. Because the NFL Players’ Union regularly publishes everyone’s contract information, we all knew how much the other was earning — except for me. I quoted an amount that was significantly less than what I was actually making. One of my teammates, who had studied that list more closely than I had, actually corrected me and told me I was making more than I thought!
That was a long time ago, but after talking to Willson, Joeckel and McDougald, I realized that not much has changed. Players think about their contracts during the offseason, but once they sign their deal it’s all about becoming the best player and best teammate they can be.
Before signing his one-year deal, Luke Willson relied on some of his teammates who have gone through it before.
“I talked to a few guys on this team that were in this same situation, and they all said the more I think about it the more distracting it became,” he said.
Sure, everyone wants job security and a nice long, fat contract. As Willson put it, “It would be nice to have a long term deal — but that’s not my situation.”
Luke offered another perspective I had not thought about: “If you sign a huge deal for lots of money, I would say that you almost have more pressure on you in that situation,” he said. “If you don’t have the year you’re supposed to have, you’re more disposable than the guy who is making a couple of million on a short-term deal.”
Short-term deals with less salary cap implications are definitely a great deal for the franchise, but I would argue it’s also very motivating for players who have something to prove.