Eric Decker is New York bound.
A five-year deal with $15 million guaranteed is certain to make headlines, but the Jets needed a significant building block for their offense. Decker was widely considered the top free-agent wide receiver in the 2014 class, and he will be 27 years old this season, which is still very much in the prime of his career.
Decker posted 1,288 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns last year and 1,064 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns in 2012.
Of course, those numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt because Peyton Manning was the record-setting quarterback in the Denver offense. Michael Fabiano of NFL.com pointed out the discrepancy in the Minnesota product’s numbers when he didn’t have No. 18 throwing him passes:
While something like that may worry potential fantasy owners when the time comes to draft, the Jets are more concerned with Decker’s impact on their offense.
New York finished sixth in the NFL in rushing yards per game in 2013 but an abysmal 31st in passing yards per contest. What’s more, it released the injury-prone Santonio Holmes, exacerbating the need for a playmaker at the wide receiver position even more.
From a divisional standpoint, the signing of Decker by the Jets and Darrelle Revis by the New England Patriots sets up an intriguing battle for fans to look forward to in 2014, via Schefter:
Assuming the team wants to build around young quarterback Geno Smith, it desperately needed targets for him to throw to. Few things can damage a still-developing signal-caller’s confidence more in the early years of his career than a receiving corps that simply can’t get open.
As a result, Smith forced the ball into tight windows far too often, which was partially why he ended up with 21 interceptions in 2013.
For his part, Decker seemed confident in Smith’s abilities in comments he made to Mike Klis of The Denver Post after he signed with the Jets:
I did research; I didn't go into our meeting today blind. When you go from a Hall of Fame quarterback, no one else, no matter who it is, can be on the same level. Talking to the offensive coordinator Marty (Mornhinweg), who has had a good track record in San Francisco and Philadelphia, he really believes in this kid.
When you look at the statistics, yeah, he got off to a slow start, but he was hurt early on and he finished the season strong. He improved all season long in a tough market. That's pretty impressive.
Looking forward, the Jets aren’t going to solve their passing woes from 2013 simply by adding Decker.
However, he is a critical and initial building block in what could be a flurry of moves to bolster the offense. Look for New York to possibly add another wide receiver or tight end in the upcoming NFL draft.
Rob Rang of CBS Sports envisions the Jets selecting tight end Eric Ebron of North Carolina with the No. 18 pick, which would help open up the middle of the field for the offense. Ebron is a terrific pass-catcher and creates mismatches with his athleticism and solid hands.
If paired with Decker, it would be difficult for opposing defenses to devote too many resources to stopping New York’s formidable rushing attack.
There is even a chance, via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (and courtesy of NFL: Around the League), that the Jets bring in Michael Vick to either compete with Smith for the starting quarterback job or serve as a mentor while the youngster continues to learn the ropes:
Regardless of whether New York adds Vick, don't be surprised if it looks to add more depth at the receiver position even with Decker in the fold.
If everything plays out the way the Jets envision, their fans can look back at the Decker signing as the initial building block of a revamped passing attack for the 2014 season.
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