It’s interesting to thing about the aftermath of just one good season. Just one good season has happened to thousands of athletes and for many of them, they turned that one season into a lifetime of security. What happened before that one good season is different for all of them, but this year in the NFL that are at least a few interesting cases of players who we’ve known about for quite some time — and now could finally be their breakthrough to that life that they’ve been dreaming of.
Take Kevin White, for example.
White was considered a generational talent at receiver when the Chicago Bears took him seventh overall in 2015, but he’s played just five games in three years. The Bears didn’t pick up White’s fifth-year option of course, so he’s playing in a contract year on an offense that is expected to take a huge step forward under the guidance of new head coach Matt Nagy and second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Sammy Watkins had an ‘ok’ season with the LA Rams and he managed to turn that and his elite prospect status as a draftee into a contract that pays him $16 million per year. If White can play for the whole year and avoid a notable injury, he probably can’t pull down Watkins-level money but he could absolutely change his life and outlook.
Some people believe that Josh Gordon is the best wide receiver in the NFL, even today after missing 54 of a possible 64 games in the last four seasons. For the first time since his rookie year in 2012, Gordon is preparing for a year on the field with no pending suspensions ahead. He gets to practice with the Cleveland Browns all summer, training camp, and preseason, developing a rapport with Baker Mayfield and the other team quarterbacks.
Gordon will only be a restricted free agent in 2019 if all goes well (how wild that Gordon is still that far behind on his contract status to be a free agent) but he could be the most high-profile RFA of all-time. What will teams go through to try and acquire Gordon if he goes off for another 1,600-yard campaign? After so many years of mistakes and getting caught, Gordon, still only 27, could make up for so many lost opportunities.
And it’s a similar story for Jordan.
After missing two full seasons, Jordan played in five games with the Seattle Seahawks and looked so much better than he did in his 26 games with the Miami Dolphins. Jordan’s making a little less than $2 million on his RFA tender this season, but a contract extension could be offered soon if he proves himself to be a guy who will have a clean bill of health and a clean record with no positive drug results. Receivers get paid well relative to some other positions, but a pass rusher can set monetary records for defensive players and in some cases only quarterbacks get more.
Jordan will have a hard time making as much as someone like Olivier Vernon or Von Miller — even if Miller’s had his own suspensions to deal with, but that proves that NFL forgives all if you’re a hard-to-find talent. Jordan could be that. He also needs to keep playing so well now that he has an opportunity to start alongside Frank Clark and Jarran Reed.
Then his 2019 will be like a whole new beginning.
Here’s a good breakdown of some Jordan highlights in 2017: