Bryant’s seen his contract value plummet this year and it’s continuing to trend downwards. He was released from his $14 million per year deal with the Dallas Cowboys back in April. He then turned down a $7 million per year deal with the Baltimore Ravens a few weeks later. And now Pro Football Talk reports that Bryant turned down a deal worth less than $5 million from the Cleveland Browns.
With one week left in the preseason, it would be surprising if the Patriots brought in any new faces, but there will be a point where Bryant will be available at a price point too reasonable for Bill Belichick to ignore, right?
At what point is Bryant a reasonable player to add?
Bryant collected 69 receptions for 838 yards and 6 touchdowns last year, which is roughly in line with the 77 receptions, 942 yards and 5 touchdowns that every wide receiver currently on the Patriots roster (other than Eric Decker) combined for in 2017. (That leaves just Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Phillip Dorsett as receivers that produced last season.) (I’m just really trying to highlight the question marks with the Patriots receiving corps.)
Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, and Cordarrelle Patterson are all on the books for between $3-4 million this year and their annual values are between $4-5.5 million. I think a fair deal for the Patriots and Bryant at this stage of the season would be an incentive-laden deal with $3 million in base salary with an opportunity to make up to $7 million in incentives.
Those incentives could pretty reasonably be linked to 250-yard or 3-touchdown increments, with $500,000 for each milestone. For example, a 750-yard, 6 touchdown season would earn Bryant $2.5 million in incentives and a total of $5.5 million in 2018, a fair value for that production.
If Bryant collects 1,000+ yards and 12+ touchdowns, he’d hit the maximum incentives and make $7 million this year and definitely reestablish his value for free agency in 2019. And if he plays that well, then it’s likely that the Patriots are contending for another title.
The longer that Bryant waits, the less money he’ll make in 2018 and the harder it will be for him to position himself for a good contract in 2019. Joining the Patriots on an incentive-heavy deal offers him the best of any opportunity to produce, contend, and earn a new deal in 2019.