With the start of a new NFL season, many fans and analysts alike turn their attention to “contract year players.” These are players who are entering the final year of their current contract and are playing for a new deal. For these players, the pressure is on to perform at their highest level to not only help their teams win, but also to secure a lucrative new contract for themselves.
The concept of contract year players is not a new one in the NFL. Teams have long been aware that players in their final year of a contract tend to perform better, as they have added motivation to prove their worth and secure a new contract. This added motivation can lead to players having career-best seasons in their contract years.
In recent years, the importance of contract year players has only increased. With the salary cap continuing to rise, teams are more willing to spend big money on star players. However, with that increased spending comes increased risk, as teams must balance retaining their own key players with the desire to bring in new talent.
For teams, identifying which of their players are entering a contract year can be crucial in determining their offseason strategy. Should they offer a new contract to a player before the season begins, or wait to see how he performs in his contract year? Is it worth investing in a player who may be a one-year wonder, or should the team look to the draft or free agency to fill the position?
For players, the pressure of a contract year can be both a burden and a blessing. Some players may feel added stress to perform, while others thrive under the added motivation. For players who do perform well in their contract years, the rewards can be immense, with big money contracts and long-term security on the line.
So who are some of the key contract year players to watch in the 2021 NFL season? One name that immediately comes to mind is Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who is playing on the franchise tag and looking to secure a long-term deal. Other notable contract year players include Arizona Cardinals wide receiver A.J. Green, New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, and New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
As the season unfolds, keep an eye on these players and others who are playing for a new contract. The buzz surrounding contract year players is sure to continue, as teams and fans alike wait to see who will step up and secure a big payday.