With free agency approaching on March 9th, it's time to take a closer look at all of the Browns' unrestricted free agents, starting with WR Terrelle Pryor.
How and When He Joined the Browns: In 2015, the Browns, then led by head coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer, were the team that decided to take a chance on Pryor’s desire to finally try converting from a quarterback to a wide receiver. Having been a third-round supplemental draft pick in 2011 (by the Raiders). He didn’t re-join the club until the very end of the 2015 season, though, so it felt like his 2016 stint with the club was a new beginning with Hue Jackson, who had some familiarity with him in Cincinnati.
Productivity Level Last Season: Pryor was the Browns’ No. 1 receiver to begin the 2016 season despite never having played the position, and the results were better than anyone could have asked for. He caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards and 4 touchdowns, and also played through the last couple of games with a torn ligament in one of his fingers.
One of the surprising things was that Cleveland seldom had Pryor run the ball. He had 8 rushes for 21 yards and 1 touchdown on the season, but didn’t have a single rushing attempt in the final 10 games. He also completed 5-of-9 passes for 41 yards. I got the feeling that head coach Hue Jackson saw what type of multi-purpose weapon he had in Pryor, but decided to eventually just stick him at wide receiver only because he didn’t want to use up all of those “tricks” when the team wasn’t competing well enough in general.
Why Keeping Him Could Make Sense: If last year was his first as a wide receiver, then why wouldn’t the Browns want to see more? He showed great hands all year, and if the team had any form of consistency at quarterback, I think we would have seen him leveraged more in the deep passing game. Pryor is also the team’s only top receiving threat right now, as Corey Coleman still has much to prove, Josh Gordon can’t be counted on, and none of last year’s other draft picks gave us much to go on.
What the Browns Should Do: The downside to Pryor might be his demeanor, which can rub people the wrong way. Several defensive backs were vocal before and after games for their disdain of Pryor. Pryor also made some comments during the season that appeared to throw the team’s offensive linemen under the bus.
Despite that, Pryor feels like a home-grown product who is in his prime and can only get better at the position. He has a relentless work ethic and has shown the desire to want to be a part of the group that turns the Browns’ franchise around. When the offense is in a more stable place too, I’d love to see what tricks Jackson has up his sleeve in his utilization of Pryor.
The question is, “what type of contract will Pryor command?” Cleveland could use the franchise tag on him, but that is a topic we will discuss more at length on Monday or Tuesday. The Browns do still have a ton of cap space, but they still need to manage that space responsibly to get the most out of it.
It’s not easy to assess Pryor’s value because there aren’t any other cases where a guy plays the position for one year, just gets past 1,000 yards, and is now going to want to be a top-paid receiver. Cleveland could argue that a receiver who played out his rookie contract and showed growth from year one to year four should be rewarded more than a guy like Pryor because of their sustained success, but I think Pryor will bypass his lack of experience and point to his work ethic and the immediate results. In the end, it’s not a matter of if Pryor should be paid, but who his agents will compare him to in contract negotiations.
There are a couple of 3-year deals that were done with Emmanuel Sanders and Brandon Marshall, but most of the contracts are either four or five years. Travis Benjamin got paid $24 million over 4 years ($6 million per year) by the Chargers last offseason. That was also after basically just one year of solid productivity, so I think that is the absolute floor when considering a deal. When you look at Pryor’s size advantage and potential to grow, I think the value instantly starts to be driven up.
I think the ceiling we are looking at for Pryor is Tavon Austin or Allen Hurns, in terms of present day contract valuation. Each of them received 4-year, $42 million deals ($10.5 million per year) despite not having a lengthy track record. Pryor is also only 27 years old, so even though each of those players are 25 years old, they can be pointed to as similar cases of players getting paid on potential based on a limited sample size.
We’ve got our floor of $6 million and our ceiling of $10.5 million. Cleveland would love to find the sweet spot in between. I personally feel the Rams and Jaguars way overpaid for Austin and Hurns, respectively. That middle ground is what Marvin Jones got from the Lions last year -- 5 years, $40 million ($8 million per year). After back-and-forth negotiations, I think Pryor will get more than that per year, but on a 4-year deal. My projection is 4 years, $36 million, with $15 million guaranteed.
Let us know below whether or not the team should try to re-sign Terrelle Pryor!