On Wednesday night, the New York Jets joined the ever-moving NFL free agent market by signing wide receiver Eric Decker to a five-year, $36.25 million contract, including $15 million guaranteed. The move is one that looks good on paper, but will ultimately turn out as yet another bust for a Jets team that simply can’t seem to get things right offensively.
When one looks purely at statistics it seems clear that Decker should be a No. 1 receiver. During the 2013 season, the 26-year-old caught 87 passes for 1,288 receiver yards, 11 touchdowns and an impressive average of 14.8 yards per catch. Adding this on to a 2012 season in which he caught 85 passes for 1,064 yards, 13 touchdowns and 12.5 yards per catch makes for two jaw-dropping seasons, and makes Decker one of the best fantasy wide receivers over the last two years.
Unfortunately for the Jets, Decker has had the great fortune of having Peyton Manning pull the strings at quarterback for the last two seasons and he has had Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Wes Welker on board as additional receiving options. This effectively has meant that Decker was often the fourth most dangerous option on the field for Manning many times, and as a result has been matched up against other teams’ third-best cornerbacks. There is no denying that this has opened up a mass amount of holes for Decker, and overshadowed the fact that he isn’t especially fast or strong, two qualities that are vital in a No. 1 wide receiver.
One must only look at how poor Decker was against the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl to see how he handles playing against top notch competition. The Seahawks made a concerted effort to shut down Decker, and physically outmatched the 6-foot-3, 214-pound wide receiver, holding him to only one catch and six receiving yards in what turned out to be a 43-8 blowout. This display showed the world that despite not being minute in stature, Decker is really not a physical behemoth, and can not handle top cornerbacks on a weekly basis.
Now Decker is going to be joining a Jets team that ranked 31st in the NFL in passing yards per game in 2013, and boasts Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson as ots best returning options catching passes. When you add on underwhelming and erratic young rookie quarterback Geno Smith, you effectively have moved Decker from the best possible situation to catch passes into the worst one.
Recent history has shown us that the 26-year-old receiver isn’t exactly great when the lights shine brightest, and it seems a near certainty that he will never come close to 1,000 yards receiving in a season while playing in New York. This will make Decker an automatic bust given his high salary, which will ultimately be the only thing consoling him as the New York media bears down on his every move.