As the 2014 NFL free agency period begins, everyone says the Indianapolis Colts need a dominant receiver to pair with Andrew Luck to gear up for a Super Bowl run in the quarterback’s third season. However, most are forgetting that Indy has one of the best pass-catchers in the game who will be back on the field in 2014 after tearing his ACL. Reggie Wayne will quickly make his presence felt once he returns, but he’s 35 and entering a contract year, which means the Colts would be foolish not to at least talk to free agent Eric Decker about signing in Indianapolis as both sides are reportedly interested in a possible pairing.
Decker wasn’t exactly a household name before Peyton Manning signed with the Denver Broncos, but none of their receivers were with Tim Tebow under center. Is it safe to say Decker’s numbers were somewhat inflated because of Manning? Probably, but it’s also fair to point out that he’s a much better player in general after playing with and learning from Manning for two years.
So that leads us to the biggest sticking point in all of this: Decker’s asking price. He’s made it clear that he isn’t going to give Denver a hometown discount and he’s looking for a big payday while negotiating his first contract since his rookie deal. Rumor has it he’s looking for $10 million per year in annual salary, which would be a steep price for the Broncos, who have $11 million in cap space this offseason. However, that wouldn’t really be a problem for the Colts if they really want to sign Decker.
Indy has over $33 million in cap space with which to work this offseason, which means the Colts can afford to spend big — or overspend — on at least one big prize and receiver is a decent-sized need now and will be a big need soon. It can be argued that it’s a major need now when the Colts’ offensive philosophy is examined.
In 2013, the Colts tried to take a more ground-and-pound approach, although that didn’t really work out, even after the Trent Richardson trade. They often had to be rescued late by Luck when the running game stalled and that has to be on head coach Chuch Pagano‘s mind this offseason. Ideally, the Colts could spend big on a more proven running back this offseason like Maurice Jones-Drew, but that’s kind of out of the question considering how much they gave up to get Richardson, regardless of how worthless he was in Indy this past season. So more realistically, they’ll have to give Richardson a full offseason and at least one more season to prove he was worth the deal. In the meantime however, the Colts can’t just sit back and wait, especially with all that cap room.
That means it would make even more sense for them to bring in a player like Decker to give Luck a solid weaponry and his own “Big Three” in the receiving corps: Wayne, Decker and T.Y. Hilton. Add in all the younger receivers with potential (Darrius Heyward-Bey, Da’Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen) and the Colts would have a passing game reminiscent of the old Manning days. At that point, Richardson would have no excuse not to produce in 2013, which means it would be a lot easier to find a replacement for him in 2015 when the Colts will have even more cap space than they do now.
Finally, the Colts can even take an all-in approach for the 2014 NFL season by signing Decker to a lucrative deal that would make the Mike Wallace critics cringe and also shelling out a ton of cash for a top-notch running back like MJD. They have the cap space to do it and considering all the really good teams they beat last year (including the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks), it really wouldn’t be a bad idea.