When their division rivals from Foxboro landed ex-Jets CB Darrelle Revis just 10 hours ago, the New York Jets and GM John Idzik decided to finally dip their toes into the free agency pool. And their patience was rewarded, as they made a blockbuster signing of their own, inking Eric Decker, the No. 1 free agent WR on the market.
The Jets front office garnered excellent value in signing the 25-year-old, who’s just entering his prime. The move filled the team’s biggest positional void, and finally gave the Jets a consistent receiving threat on the outside, something the franchise has not had the benefit of since Wayne Chrebet retired roughly nine years ago.
Eric Decker’s deal with the #Jets: 5 years, $36.25M with $15M fully guaranteed. Big commitment
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 13, 2014
This value contract is a stark contrast to what Jets fans had previously come to expect during the Mike Tannenbaum era, and is a positive sign—marking the dawn of a new regime running the show. It was just three years ago when the team
signed overpaid WR Santonio Holmes in the form of a 5-year, $50 million deal ($24M guaranteed) , and that didn’t work out well. In fact, that contract, as well as Mark Sanchez’s extension, left the team in salary cap hell—a big hole which Idzik has been working his way out of. And he’s done a great job of it thus far.
Decker is coming off a career year in which he hauled in 87 catches for 1,288 yards (11 TDs). He’s a durable receiver, and has started every regular-season game in the last three years.
While he may not be a prototypical No. 1 receiver, he’s a very good No. 2. And even with all the receiving talent around him last season to draw heavy coverage and open things up for him—thanks to Wes Welker and the Thomas duo—Decker still saw the second-most targets on the team with 135, via Pro Football Focus.
Whether he’s a No. 1, 2, 3 or 4 receiver, National Football Post’s Joel Corry did a great job of putting things into perspective. It’s all about the numbers he puts up, which will make the Jets offense more dynamic:
@RichCimini If Eric Decker catches 75 passes for 1,026 yards with 6 TDs, then he’s produced like an average number 1 WR.
— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) March 13, 2014
The knock on Decker is that he needs to improve in beating press-man coverage, as he sometimes struggles to get separation when matched up against big, physical cornerbacks. He’s also disappeared in various big games against stout defenses. During the Broncos playoff run just a few months back, he hauled in only eight catches for 110 yards (0 TDs) in total, and caught only one pass for six yards in the Super Bowl when he was blanketed by the Legion of Boom.
He’ll fit into OC Marty Mornhinweg’s offense just fine. QB Geno Smith ranked in the top 10 in average length of pass last season. He’ll help stretch the field on the outside and will open things up underneath for WR Jeremy Kerley and whichever other receivers the Jets acquire in free agency (James Jones?) or in the draft to attack the middle of the field.
As far as how he can be utilized, PFF tweeted out an excellent breakdown of his route tree from last season:
Whether he’s a “true” No. 1 or not, he’ll be the top receiver on a Jets receiving corps that was among the worst in the league last season, and 150 targets in 2014 isn’t out of the question.
We don’t know how Decker will fare without having the greatest QB of all-time throwing him the football. But he’ll be a cornerstone in Mornhinweg’s offense—with plenty of targets and opportunities to produce—and he’ll be worshiped by Jets fans, who haven’t seen a consistent, dynamic receiver since Chrebet was torching opposing defenses a decade ago.