It’s been a pretty lucrative week for some former Notre Dame football stars. On the first day of NFL free agency on Tuesday, former defensive end Romeo Okwara signed a three-year, $39M extension with the Detroit Lions. On Thursday, his former teammate, wide receiver Will Fuller, signed a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins for $10M with incentives to make the deal worth potentially more.
The deal is essentially a one year, “prove it” deal for the former Notre Dame star who has had issues staying on the field in the NFL. Injuries marred the early part of his NFL career. Then in the midst of a breakout season in 2020, Fuller was suspended for six-games for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policies.
At the time of his suspension in 2020, Fuller had 53 receptions for 879 yards and 8 touchdowns. All of those totals were career highs through 11 games for Fuller.
After five years in the NFL, Fuller has established two things. One, when he is healthy, he is one of the most dangerous deep threats in the NFL. Will Fuller has averaged 15.9 yards per reception throughout his NFL career, including a career-best 16.6 in 2020. Two, his availability can’t be counted on. Prior to missing the final five games of the 2020 season because of the suspension (the 6th game of the suspension will be served in week one of 2021), He had only played in more than 11 games, once in his career.
Fuller will have a year to prove that he can stay on the field and to put the suspension behind him. Instead of having Deshaun Watson, one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, throwing him the ball, however, he’ll have 2nd year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa trying to get him the ball. The Dolphins struggled throwing the ball vertically in 2020 and desperately needed to add some speed to their wide receiver corps. Fuller certainly fits the ball, and with a one year deal, it was a relatively low risk move for the Dolphins even if the deal ends up being worth more than $10M.
The biggest stat for Fuller in 2021 isn’t receptions, yards, or touchdowns though. It’s games played. If Fuller gets close to 15 games (since he technically can’t play all 16), he will have a much bigger pay day next year in free agency. As is, a one year deal for $10M isn’t too bad considering he is coming off a suspension.