Related Video - Quick Dallas Cowboys Free Agency Update from CBS
The free-agent market for veteran "No. 2" wide receivers in the tier of Terrance Williams appeared clearly defined as the Dallas Cowboys entered NFL free agency last week:
It would be four- to five-year contracts with averages per year between $6 and $8.5 million per year.
Travis Benjamin ($6M) Golden Tate ($6.2M), Mohamed Sanu ($6.5M), Eric Decker ($7.25M), Marvin Jones ($8M), and Michael Crabtree ($8.5M) all signed contracts in that range in the last few years.
This trend is why we projected Williams to attract suitors in this range and ultimately sign a five-year contract worth $37 million -- and why many inside The Star in Frisco thought something similar.
For the first few days of free agency in 2017, that trend appeared to continue, as Kenny Stills ($8M), and Kenny Britt ($8.125M) each added their names to the list of wide receivers in that range. However, after those first couple of contracts, with Williams remaining unsigned, it appear that trend reversed. Players like Alshon Jeffery ($9.5M) and Terrell Pryor ($6M), who were projected to sign lucrative long-term contracts, settled for one-year contracts with new teams, each “betting on himself” to outperform that contract, while Brandon Marshall signed early for two years and $11 mil with the Giants, and Brandon LaFell signed a two-year $9 mil contract to remain in Cincinnati.
When contracts signed by free agents start to trend toward short-term, that usually serves as an indication that the overall market has slowed down, and that players are opting to take shorter deals to prove themselves worth the type of long-term money that was spent over the first day or two.
It appears that once this became the direction of the market, Williams opted for the familiarity of Dallas and the wide receiver group that is notably close, over a new destination, and valued some long-term security over another shot at freedom in 2018, and chose to sign in Dallas.
At four-years, $17 mil, with a $5 mil signing bonus, and $9.5 mil fully guaranteed, Williams' contract is among the best values at the position. This contract is below many rookie deals for players at the position and is much more reflective of a "third wide receiver" than a No. 2 wideout who hasn’t missed a single game while being a legit starter since his rookie year.
At close to $8 mil per year, it was debatable whether Williams would be back due to the amount the team already has invested in their offense, but at a mere $4.25 mil, having him back is a virtual no-brainer.
But why did things trend down?
We think one reason is heartwarming and the other reason is cold-blooded.
Heartwarming: T-Will tweeted "Loyalty." We believe that is sincere.
Cold-blooded: An NFL team source tells us the market on receivers like Williams (who very well may have had a higher-money but shorter-year offer elsewhere) dried up because of the volume of starter-caliber receivers coming out in this upcoming NFL Draft.
So in a sense, Terrence Williams got his money ... Before a rookie draftee got his job.