Decker is seen by many as the top free agent receiver this year. He hauled in 87 receptions for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. This production is outrageous and is a huge reason for Denver’s success in the passing game. But is he the man to fix the Jets woeful passing game?
Talent on Roster: Decker is undeniably an upgrade over the current receiving corps. At 6’3" he would give Geno Smith a big target that compares favourably to David Nelson. Nelson had success this season hauling in 423 yards and 2 touchdowns in a shortened year. Nevertheless, Nelson is evidently not the answer for the Jets. However, someone of a similar body type with more talent might well be, in Decker the Jets find just that. Decker is someone who can be a big red zone threat with reliable hands. If you see Decker as a Nelson 2.0 then he is at least a consideration for the Jets in free agency.
Possibility: I’m pretty confident in saying that Eric Decker will not be a Denver Bronco in 2014. The Broncos cannot afford to keep all 4 of their playmakers in Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker. They have a projected $12.4 million in cap space according to Spotrac.com. The Broncos have multiple other players who are free agents including both starting corners in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Chris Harris Jr. The Broncos have openly said they cannot afford to pay Decker like a number one receiver when they only view him as a good number two. I believe that this could be a huge stumbling block for the Jets in pursuit of this acquisition. Idzik will not pay over the top for one single player regardless of the position.
Talent: Do Decker’s numbers overhype his talent? I think the answer is yes on this front. This does not mean he is devoid of talent, in fact far from it, but equally I don’t think he is a guy the Jets should pursue. Decker does not possess top end speed which worried scouts both throughout the draft process and his first few years in the league. Decker has benefitted from being surrounded by Welker, and the two Thomas’. Defenses had to cover all four of them and thus Decker would often find himself in single coverage against a number two or three cornerback who was significantly shorter than him. This enabled an easy pitch and catch especially in the red zone. With the Jets, Decker would never find this. Coverage would be rolled towards him instead of away from him, and I for one am not convinced he could still produce in that environment. I just fail to see him as a number one receiver in an offense which is currently bereft of talent.
Price: The Jets could see up to $40 million in cap space if they make the logical cuts (Holmes, Sanchez and Cromartie) However, teams like the Raiders are predicted to have nearly $60 million prior to any cap casualties. They are not alone as the Colts, Jaguars, Vikings and Redskins are just four more examples of receiver needy teams with more cap space than the Jets. Ultimately, I feel the Jets would not be wise to, nor will they be willing to compete economically for Decker’s services with some of these overly aggressive front offices such as Washington and Oakland.
The Peyton problem: Along with the issue of money and lack of physical talent I am most worried that Decker is the product of Peyton. Manning is arguably the best quarterback of all time and the 2013 Broncos were the most explosive and prolific offense in NFL history. Decker was one of four receivers to have double digit touchdowns this season. Manning threw for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards. This evidence alone does not demonstrate that Decker is a product of Peyton but we all know Peyton has been consistent throughout his career, the same cannot be said for Decker. Through his first two years of his career he failed to have over 700 yards receiving or double digit touchdowns. It has to be taken into account that Tebow was playing quarterback. But the less said about that the better, I think we’ve all heard enough about Tebow in New York. Despite this, when you review Demaryius Thomas’ numbers they are very similar to Decker’s with five fewer games in 2011. This demonstrates the difference between a true number one receiver and Eric Decker.
Overall: This is one of those occasions where the stats do not tell the whole story. Decker was inflated by Peyton’s play and being part of a four pronged aerial attack offense. However, Decker is better than he showed in 2011. In reality he is somewhere in between. He is a good number two possession receiver. He is very potent in the red zone, runs good routes and has pretty good hands. The issue is that Decker is not particularly fast and I have serious concerns about his ability to be the number one option. He is better than what we currently have. But I still believe the Jets can do better both in free agency and the draft.