Signing a one-year contract is almost never ideal from a player’s perspective — while a single-season pact can often mean a larger salary, it doesn’t come with the security or guarantees that a multi-year deal offers. From a team’s vantage point, however, there’s essentially no such thing as a poor one-year contract. The player doesn’t work out? No problem: he’s off the books in one season and doesn’t hinder the club’s long-term financials.
Not every player listed below was inked with the presumption that they’d become an integral piece of their respective team’s roster, but they’ve all made good on their one-year pacts. Here are the ten best one-year NFL contracts signed in 2017:
Case Keenum, QB (Vikings)
In Week 9 of the 2016 season, Keenum was appearing in his final game as the Rams’ starting quarterback, and had led the club to a 3-5 record while ranking 29th in both quarterback rating and adjusted net yards per pass attempt. Fast forward to the 2017 campaign, and Keenum is 16th in quarterback rating, 11th in ANY/A, and fronting a Vikings team that leads the NFC North at 6-2 — not bad for a one-year, $2MM deal. It’s unclear how long Keenum will remain Minnesota’s starter under center (Teddy Bridgewater is due back next week), but Keenum, who will be 30 years old when free agency opens next spring, has put himself in line to compete for a starting job in 2018, either with the Vikings or with another club.
Josh McCown, QB (Jets)
Although the Jets were thought to be tanking this season, they’ve posted a 4-5 record (a mark that includes close losses to the Dolphins and Falcons), and McCown has been a key driver of that success. Now 38 years old, McCown is posting his best statistics since 2013, and has completed 70.4% of his passes for 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He’s been especially productive in the deep passing game, ranking second in touchdowns and third in passer rating on throws of 20 yards or more, per Mike Castiglione of Pro Football Focus. Given his performance and his locker room presence, McCown shouldn’t have any trouble landing another job next offseason.
LeGarrette Blount, RB (Eagles)
While trade acquisition Jay Ajayi figures to take over as the Eagles’ starting running back going forward, Philadelphia has already gotten value out of Blount and his one-year, $1.25MM pact. Blount has handled at least 12 carries in seven of nine games this season while posting a robust 4.6 yards per rush. While he’s scored only two touchdowns thus far, Blount ranks first among all running backs with more than 25 touches with a broken tackle per touch ratio of 39.4%, according to Football Outsiders. The Eagles are the best team in the league right now, meaning they’ll be favored in a majority of their remaining games. Even with Ajayi in tow, positive game scripts should ensure Blount still has a role in Philadelphia’s backfield.
Alshon Jeffery, WR (Eagles)
Following two consecutive down seasons in Chicago, Jeffery took a pillow contract with the Eagles — he’ll collect $9.5MM (and can earn $4.5MM via incentives) before searching for a long-term deal next spring. Jeffery is fresh off his best game of the season, as he posted six receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns against the Broncos’ vaunted pass defense. While he’s still not creating separation — dead last in the league in yards of separation among qualified wideouts — Jeffery and his contested catch ability are nevertheless a large part of the Eagles’ offense. He’s accounted for 35.03% of his club’s air yards (10th in the NFL), per Next Gen Stats, giving quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz a much-needed weapon on the outside.
Alex Okafor, DE (Saints)
After trying the likes of Bobby Richardson and Paul Kruger of the past two seasons, the Saints have finally found a counterpart to Cameron Jordan at defensive end in the form of Okafor, whom New Orleans lured away from Arizona with a $2MM contract. He’s since played more than three-quarters of the Saints’ defensive snaps, racking up 3.5 sacks in the process. Also excellent against the run, Okafor ranks second among 4-3 defensive ends with a 9.5% run stop percentage, per PFF. All told, Okafor has helped the Saints defense rebound to a No. 16 ranking in DVOA and No. 15 ranking in adjusted sack rate (and those numbers are prior to New Orleans’ five-sack performance against the Buccaneers on Sunday).
Julius Peppers, DE (Panthers)
Peppers is back in Carolina following a seven-year hiatus, and the former No. 1 overall pick is playing like it’s still 2008. He’s 37 years old now, so the Panthers are wisely limiting his snaps — he’s seen action on roughly half the club’s defensive plays through nine weeks. Peppers has racked up 7.5 sacks this season, a figure which ranks eighth among defenders this season and places him fourth all-time with 150.5 career sacks. If Carolina earns a postseason berth — FiveThirtyEight gives them a 52% chance to do so — it will be on the strength of the team’s defense, which currently ranks sixth in DVOA.
Zach Brown, LB (Redskins)
Coming off the best season of his career with the Bills in 2016, Brown was surprisingly forced to settle for a one-year, $2MM deal with the Redskins after initially searching for a $6MM/year contract. And that’s not due to lack of interest, as Oakland, Miami, Indianapolis, and Buffalo all expressed interest in the veteran linebacker before he landed with Washington. Several of those clubs (we’re looking at you, Raiders) would certainly love to have a defender of Brown’s caliber and price available right now. A playmaking machine who embodies a 21st-century linebacker, Brown should be able to land a multi-year pact next offseason, when he’ll still be only 28 years old.
Morris Claiborne, CB (Jets)
The Jets’ offseason was primarily dedicated to getting rid of veteran players, but general manager Mike Maccagnan‘s small-scale signings have worked out well, as Claiborne joins McCown as the second Gang Green addition on this list. Claiborne, 27, has always been an effective player when healthy, but injuries have often marred his performance. He’s never played an entire 16-game slate, and he’s managed more than 11 games just once during his five-plus year career. Like Brown, Claiborne can use 2017 as his platform season in order to secure a multi-year deal in 2018 — as long as stays healthy for the rest of this year, that is.
Nickell Robey-Coleman, CB (Rams)
A perfectly-named slot corner, Robey-Coleman was shockingly cut loose by the Bills earlier this year despite ranking as PFF’s No. 33 cornerback in 2016 and being on par to earn just $2.083MM in 2017. The Rams scooped him up on a one-year deal worth the minimum salary, and he’s been outstanding under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, helping Los Angeles to a No. 3 ranking in pass defense DVOA. Thus far, the 25-year-old Robey-Coleman ranks third among 64 qualified cornerbacks in success rate, per Football Outsiders.
Patrick Robinson, CB (Eagles)
While the Eagles certainly have leaned on their excellent young corps on the way to a 8-1 record, general manager Howie Roseman should be lauded for his one-year, cost-effective signings of Robinson, Jeffery, and Blount. Cast off by the Colts one year into a three-year deal, Robinson signed with Philadelphia for the minimum salary and has since become the Eagles’ best cornerback. Pro Football Focus ranks the former first-round pick as the No. 4 corner in the league, and Robinson is allowing only 56.3% of targets in his area to be caught. While Robinson may not be able to parlay his production into a hefty deal in 2018 given that he’ll be 31 years old when next season gets underway, he’s been a superb addition for the Eagles.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.