The Cleveland Browns unearthed Terrelle Pryor from the NFL scrapheap and helped turn him into a 1,000-yard receiver. Now they might not get to enjoy the fruit of their labor.
The Browns allowed Wednesday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline to pass without using their franchise tag on Pryor, meaning he will become an unrestricted free agent on March 9. Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said the team has had discussions with the receiver on a long-term contract.
“I think we’d like to have Terrelle back and that’s a priority for us,” Brown said in a team statement. “That said, we’re not going to panic if he’s not back, also. But he’s a good player, works hard, we think he fits in our system, had a lot of success with our coaches, so we think this is a great place for him to continue his career.”
Pryor, 27, recorded 77 receptions for 1,004 yards and four touchdowns in 2016. He entered the year with just two NFL receptions on his resume and wound up leading the Browns in every major receiving category, thanks in part to an injury to Corey Coleman.
A converted quarterback who spent three seasons with the Oakland Raiders before bouncing around NFL camps, the 6’4″, 223-pounder made life difficult for opposing defensive backs.
“He’s one of the best athletes in the NFL today,” free-agent cornerback Darrelle Revis told reporters. “For him to switch positions like he’s done, and actually excel in a position swap, I tip my hat off to him. He’s a Pittsburgh guy as well, so it’s good to see us Pittsburgh guys excel in the NFL. It’s great. He’s an awesome player.”
Pryor is considered one of the league’s top players hitting the open market. NFL.com ranks him ninth on its list of the 101 best free agents, second among receivers behind Alshon Jeffery. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reported Kenny Stills, who NFL.com ranked 51st overall, is expected to get $12 million per season on his next contract.
In that case, Pryor could be looking at a potential bidding war less than two years after his career seemed over. He has maintained his top goal is to get a deal done in Cleveland.
“I do love being with the Browns and like I said before, this thing isn’t about joining a different team because a different team’s good,” Pryor told Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “That’s not what it’s about. I love the building process here. I started out in my career never coming in the front door. I’ve always got to go in the back.”
Brown said he “appreciated” Pryor wanting to be in Cleveland, and the team prefers a long-term contract over a one-year stopgap.
That said, there are some differing opinions on Pryor’s performance level. Pro Football Focus graded him 31st among players at his position in 2016, while Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric had him 60th. Quarterback problems were part of Pryor’s issues, but there has to be some concern about investing top-tier money in a player who turns 28 years old in June and is still learning his position.Read more NFL news on BleacherReport.com