Eric Decker: Playoff Hopefuls That Could Use Young Receiver the Most

Nate Loop@Nate_LoopFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2014

Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker (87) runs the ball upfield on a punt return against the San Diego Chargers in the second quarterof an NFL AFC division playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

Eric Decker is the gem of the NFL free-agent class when it comes to wide receivers, and should have plenty of suitors lining up to pry him out of Denver and the enviable clutches of Peyton Manning.

Decker has produced top-shelf numbers for the Broncos over the past two years, reeling in a staggering 172 catches for 2,353 yards and 24 touchdowns from 2012 to 2013. He may have done this as second-fiddle to the superb Demaryius Thomas, but his value to teams wishing to thrive in a pass-happy league is unquestionable.

It is difficult to discern whether or not Decker's statistics are a function of Manning and his chart-busting offense or his own ability to get separation and make plays regardless of scheme or signal-caller pedigree. According to Ian Rapoport, that No. 2 mantra may be a strategy to keep Decker in Denver:


On #Broncos viewing Eric Decker as a 2: Teams know such info may bring down value. Denver does want to keep him. We’ll see if they can.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 2, 2014


Even if that is the case, Decker is at least a fantastic No. 2 option with potential to be a team's top target. He is the type of puzzle-piece addition that can take NFL team's on the brink of playoff glory to a position of sustained excellence, provided they have the financial means to snag a player like him.

He will attract plenty of attention in the NFL free-agent market, and some suitors will be better matches than others for a player who came within one game of Super Bowl glory, and may wish to make playoff appearances a regular occurrence.

New York Jets

The Jets went 6-10 in 2012 and 8-8 in 2013, but have done so on the cheap. They should have plenty of cap space, according to Grantland's Bill Barnwell, to improve their standing in 2014.

The chasm in talent at quarterback between Manning and Geno Smith may be too big for Decker to ignore. However if he went to New York, he could find himself as a well-paid centerpiece of an offense that would still have some money to add further talent around him.

The Jets could consider adding a free-agent quarterback like Josh McCown to sweeten the deal for Decker, and a solid quarterback and Decker's talent could mean a couple of extra wins for the Jets, who have shown a unique ability to pull out unlikely victories under head coach Rex Ryan.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins will be looking to bounce back after a dismal 2013 season where they finished 3-13, just one year removed from a 10-6 season that saw them win the NFC East. This is a team that has the potential to bounce back after a nightmare season.

Pierre Garcon is the only Redskins receiver to top 1,000 yards in the past four seasons
Pierre Garcon is the only Redskins receiver to top 1,000 yards in the past four seasonsJohn Bazemore/Associated Press

The team should be desperate for help at wide receiver, lest the development of Robert Griffin III stall out due to a lack of talent around him. Decker would also be a great fit for new head coach Jay Gruden's West Coast, pro-style offense. Decker is 6'3" with solid hands and was on the receiving end of plenty of short to intermediate passes from Manning in Denver.

Pairing Decker with Pierre Garcon, the only true threat in the current Redskins wideout corps, would give RG3 two legitimate receiving options, and allow the Redskins to build their defense through the draft and help them make a playoff push in the relatively weak NFC East.

Detroit Lions

If there was ever a team that had talent but needed to go all-in at wide receiver, it would be the Detroit Lions.

Matthew Stafford has proven that he can certainly heave a pigskin, and the Lions already have the best wide receiver in the league in Calvin Johnson. After him, the wide receiver production drops off of a cliff.

2013 Detroit Lions Wide Receiver Stats
Calvin Johnson841,49212
Nate Burleson394611
Kris Durham384902
Kevin Ogletree131991
Ryan Broyles8850

The Lions finished at 7-9 in 2013, but their division was in a state of flux and Packers won it with an 8-7-1 record. One way for the Lions to cope with the return of Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and sustain a playoff push would be to solidify their passing game, and allow Reggie Bush and Joique Bell to focus on running the football and being check down options, rather than the second- and third-best receiving threats, on the team.

Decker has already been labeled as a potential bust in free agency by some outlets, but that seems to be the case if he is viewed as franchise-savior and top wide receiver. For teams that already have some pieces in place and are looking for a finishing touch, Decker is an outstanding option, even though he may come at a hefty price.

The Indianapolis Colts, with the improving Andrew Luck at the helm, are also a great option for a player like Decker. The former Minnesota Golden Gopher could also perhaps be persuaded for a return trip to the frigid north and play for the Vikings.

Wherever Decker lands, he is sure to improve the team around him. There are plenty of secondaries that have been burned by him in his four years in the NFL and will view him as a legitimate threat. Pair him up with a legitimately improving team, and you have the recipe for playoff contention in the cutthroat NFL. 


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