The Jets are a team that will have a lot of cap space entering free agency and a glaring need at wide receiver. Eric Decker is far and away the best wide receiver who is on track to be a free agent. Will there be a match in Florham Park? Let's take a look.
The 27 year old had a stellar fourth season in the NFL. He put up 87 receptions, 1,288 yards, and 14 touchdowns. You can say he has a great quarterback, Peyton Manning. You can say all of the surrounding talent like Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Julius Thomas gave him favorable matchups. When a player ranks in the top twelve in the three biggest receiving categories, he's a really good player.
What really sticks out to me about Decker is his route running. He runs smooth, crisp routes and understands how to read coverages. This is why Peyton Manning and he have great chemistry. He's a big 6'3" target who has been a terrific red zone threat. He isn't the most blazing runner in the world, but he gets to top speed fast which allows him to stretch the field. It also helps him get out of his breaks quickly to create passing windows. He's quick enough to be effective if you slide him into the slot and even if you want to stick him deep as a punt returner. Decker's doesn't have great hands, but his game is well-rounded.
The Jets really could use a Decker type receiver. What scares me is just looking at the money receivers have gotten in free agency lately. Sidney Rice, Santonio Holmes, and Pierre Garcon got contracts with an annual value over $8 million. Greg Jennings got a deal with an annual value of $9 million. Vincent Jackson got one over $11 million. Mike Wallace got one at $12 million. Percy Harvin was acquired in a trade, but his deal is over $12 million per year.
I like Decker a lot. I think he can be the top option on a good passing offense. I don't, however, think he is worth that kind of money. To me that's the kind of money that goes to physical forces. For Decker to succeed as a top option, I think you are going to have to provide him with a number of quality complimentary pieces so the defense cannot focus too much on him, which means you need money to find those guys and can't tie it up in one person. What I want for that money is a game-breaker. Decker isn't the kind of guy who keeps you up and night and forces you to adjust your gameplan. He isn't the kind of guy you have to use too many resources to stop and risk opening things up for other players, and even then you have to worry about him beating you.
There is nothing in the NFL that destroys teams faster than tying up game-changer money in players who are not game-changers. You cannot get out of those contracts for years, and they eat up too much cap space for you to add the necessary supporting pieces. My fear is Decker will cost that amount if he hits the market. And if his priority is not making the most money at auction, he is probably going to stay in a great situation in Denver with Peyton Manning throwing him the ball instead of moving to New York and catch balls from Geno Smith.
I think the sweet spot for Decker would be an annual salary around $6 million. If the Jets went to $8 million or more, I could live with it. You can overpay one or two guys, and he would fill a glaring need. The amount it might take to get Decker leaves me kind of uncomfortable, though.