The New York Jets finally made a splash in free agency when they signed former Denver Broncos WR Eric Decker to a 5-year, $36.25 million contract earlier this month. The Jets needed an upgrade at wide receiver in 2014, and they went out and got one of the best on the market. Naturally, since we’re talking about the Jets here, the move was ripe for criticism with many citing the idea that Decker shouldn’t be considered a “true” No. 1 receiver, and that he was a product of his system in Denver. Only the Jets could sign the best free agent available at a position of need and get torn to shreds for it.
It shouldn’t be any secret that one can expect a certain level of inflation to any receiver’s statistics who is fortunate enough to play with the great Peyton Manning. Decker had a breakout year in 2012, Manning’s first in Denver, with 85 catches good for 1,064 yards and 13 touchdowns (2nd in the league). He was able to build on this success during Manning’s historic 2013 campaign, with a 87/1,288/11 stat line. Decker’s 2013 season is particularly noteworthy, as he was able to achieve these types of numbers as the third WR on the team’s depth chart. Of course, no one can spread they ball around like Manning, but the fact that Decker was competing with the likes of Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker for looks, makes his performance as the team’s No. 3 receiver all the more impressive. It will be interesting to see what Decker can do as a No. 1 option, receiving the lion’s share of the targets.
Even before Manning arrived in Denver, Decker showed signs of being able to produce on a high level early in his career. In 2011, Decker recorded only 44 receptions for 612 yards in his second year in the league, but was able to tally eight touchdowns with none other than Tim Tebow as his quarterback (remember him?). Managing eight scores with Tebow as your QB is no small feat. Decker probably deserves some kind of award in addition to his $35 million contract.
The Jets have rolled the dice on a young (only 27 years old) WR with good speed and size, who has improved each year he’s been in the league. This is a good bet. Decker might not have the super-human Manning throwing the ball in New York — he’ll have to prove he can succeed with a human quarterback targeting him — but he is going to be the Jets’ go-to-guy. If the Jets can manage even average production at the quarterback position in 2014, somewhere between Tebow and Manning, Decker is sure to be able to perform at a high level as the focal point of the offense. A “true” No. 1 receiver (whatever that means) is a player who can produce like one as his team’s primary target. Decker is going to be asked to do just that.
The Jets still have a lot of work to do on the offensive side of the ball, having had one of the weakest receiving corps in the NFL last year. No matter what, the addition of Decker is a great start.