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Eric Decker's Most Likely Destinations on the Eve of NFL Free Agency

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Eric Decker's Most Likely Destinations on the Eve of NFL Free Agency
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

At 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, phones of NFL front-office execs, player agents and players themselves will be blowing up as the 2014 free-agency period opens.

Atop many lists of available wide receivers is talented target Eric Decker, who is set to cash in after two prolific seasons with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in 2012-13.

Many have debated Decker's true value as a receiver, since most don't expect him to put up such big numbers without Manning under center.

Mike Klis of The Denver Post argued that Decker is still worth No. 1 receiver money, even if his stats have been a bit inflated. Meanwhile, Adam Schein of NFL.com labeled Decker the riskiest free agent of this year's class.

Listed at 6'3", 214 pounds, the explosive Decker averaged 86 catches for 1,176 yards and 12 touchdowns over the past two years. There are plenty of teams with cap room this offseason; here's a look at three who have the best shot to land Decker as free agency is set to begin.

 

Indianapolis Colts

If the Broncos can't afford to keep you around, going to Andrew Luck and the Colts might be the next best thing for Decker.

Indianapolis has already signed veteran linebacker D'Qwell Jackson to a club-friendly deal recently to help shore up the defense, but the team is still about $38 million under the cap, per Spotrac.com.

The team has money to spend and Decker would help a fill a need at receiver, where the Colts are very thin behind the rehabbing Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton. Former NFL agent Joel Corry shared his thoughts on Decker's situation for CBS Sports.

The ideal team for Decker has a stable quarterback situation, significant salary cap room and doesn't have another highly paid wide receiver. The team that best fits this description is the Indianapolis Colts, who reportedly have interest in Decker.

Andrew Luck is arguably the best young quarterback in the NFL. Thirty-five-year-old Reggie Wayne, who tore the ACL in his right knee during Week 7's contest against Denver last season, is entering the final season of a three-year, $17.5 million deal he signed in 2012. T.Y. Hilton, a third round pick in 2012, assumed No. 1 receiving duties during Wayne's absence. He isn't eligible to renegotiate his rookie contract until after the 2014 regular season and will not be a free agent until 2016.

On Monday, Albert Breer of NFL Media reported that the Colts have expressed interest in Decker already.

So the Colts could use a long-term option at receiver to grow with Luck, and they have the cap room to sign him to a big-dollar deal. But with their winning atmosphere and two straight playoff berths behind Luck and coach Chuck Pagano, the Colts might not have to pay top dollar to compete for his services.

For Decker, he could expect to contend for the foreseeable future while earning a sizable paycheck in the process. In the end, this looks like the most likely destination for the 26-year-old receiver.

 

Oakland Raiders

Earlier this offseason, once it became apparent that the Broncos wouldn't be making much of an effort to re-sign Decker due to limited cap space, the receiver spoke with the media about his prospects of leaving the team.

Andrew Brandt of ESPN shared this comment from Decker and gave his spin on what the wideout really meant.

If the Oakland Raiders were somehow able to lure Decker to the Bay Area, it wouldn't be the first time in sports history that a quality player joined a subpar team because of a big-time contract. In fact, Tom Pelissero of USA Today cited the Raiders as a possible destination due to Decker's ties with Oakland coach Dennis Allen.

The receiver most likely set to get top dollar spent a year in Denver with Oakland coach Dennis Allen when Allen was the Broncos defensive coordinator in 2011. Maybe more important, general manager Reggie McKenzie has more cap space to work with than any other team in the league.

According to Spotrac.com, the Raiders have a whopping $65 million in cap room for this offseason, a big one for McKenzie and Allen.

Landing Decker would certainly be a coup, but at what cost? Who's going to throw Decker the ball anyway?

The Raiders hold the No. 5 pick in the upcoming draft that features possible options Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater. The team could also explore free agency, and the uncertainty at the position doesn't bode well for Oakland's prospects to land Decker.

Last year's combination of Terrelle Pryor, Matt McGloin and Matt Flynn was comically bad at times, as the Raiders (4-12) failed to have a winning record for the 11th straight season.

It's not the ideal destination for a player who wants to win, but the dollar signs will come into play whenever Oakland is courting a free agent.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Uncredited/Associated Press

In his report for CBS Sports, Corry also labeled the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns as two possible destinations for Decker since they both have a lot of money to spend this offseason.

Jacksonville is in a similar position to the Raiders, with a losing team, high draft pick (No. 3 overall), lots of money and a need at quarterback. Meanwhile, the Browns already have a No. 1 receiver in Josh Gordon and plenty of other holes to fill on the roster with their roughly $56 million in cap space.

Here's Corry's take on why the Jaguars, who have nearly $59 million in cap room, make sense as a landing spot for Decker.

Jacksonville general manager David Caldwell is being given time to undergo a rebuilding process. He focused on the draft and largely avoided free agency in 2013, his first year on the job. The league requirement for each team to spend a minimum of 89 percent of the cap in cash from over a four-year period from 2013 to '16 should eventually force Jacksonville to be aggressive in free agency. The Washington Redskins were the only team in 2013 that spent less than Jacksonville's $96.598 million payroll (78.5 percent of the $123 million 2013 salary cap). Wide receiver could be addressed during the offseason because of 2012 first-round pick Justin Blackmon's substance abuse problems.

Football is a business, and Decker will have to get his priorities straight once the offers start coming across the negotiating table. It will be interesting to see if he will sacrifice a winning locker room for financial security, as the teams with the most money to spend have also been among the worst in the league recently.

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