Just as it seemed as if the Jets were content to let free agency pass them by, general manager John Idzik made his first big splash by acquiring former Denver Bronco Eric Decker, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports:
Jets are giving former Broncos WR Eric Decker a 5-year, $36.25M deal, including $15M gtd, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 13, 2014
This comes to no surprise, as the Jets were in a desperate need for a new body at wide receiver, especially after parting ways with Santonio Holmes. As the pool of top-tier free agents began to evaporate, Decker was the Jets' last chance to make the big signing they needed to drastically upgrade their roster.
In fact, there was a chance that this seemingly inevitable deal was going to fall apart, as Manish Mehta of the Daily News notes:
Jets source: "I hope Decker gets out of the building before Idzik gets talked into overpaying for him." #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) March 12, 2014
It may be all smiles and handshakes for the cameras now, but did John Idzik wind up overpaying Decker?
Simple math tells us that Decker will average $7.25 million per season—not a bad paycheck by any means, but not quite near at the top of the market as some projected when free agency began.
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Considering Decker's numbers, the Jets made out rather well in this negotiation. Decker did manage to reel in $15 million in guarantees, but Idzik avoided paying him like a low-end No. 1 receiver and got him for the price of a high-end No. 2 receiver.
Like the vast majority NFL contracts, Decker's is far from straightforward. ESPN's Rich Cimini has the breakdown:
Numbers on Decker: 5/$36.25M. Includes $7.5M signing bonus, plus gtd base of $2.5M + $5.0M in '14 + '15. Cap: $4M, $6.5M, $8M, $8.75M, $9M.— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) March 13, 2014
Eric Decker ($4M) has 5th-highest '14 cap charge on #Jets, behind Sanchez ($13.1M), Brick ($11.7M), Mangold ($7.2M), Harris ($7M).— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) March 13, 2014
As a result, considering their massive need to sign a player of Decker's caliber and the fact that Decker was arguably the best receiver on the market this year, the Jets made out rather well in a deal that was fair for both sides.
Because of his lack of top-end speed and unfortunately, his ethnicity, Decker has been unfairly categorized as a "possession" receiver who wins more with effort than raw ability.
While effort and character is not a concern of Decker's, he brings more to the table than a second coming of Wayne Chrebet.
At 6'3", Decker reels in contested passes extremely well, using his great body control and strength to put himself in a position to outmuscle defenders. While he does not stand out as a route-runner or someone who gains separation easily, he makes for a tremendous red-zone target (11 touchdowns in 2013).
Ideally, Decker fits best as an "X" receiver (someone who typically lines up to the quarterback's left), but he has enough versatility to line up just about anywhere in the formation. The Jets, whose receivers have spent more time on stationary bikes than on the field, appreciate the fact that Decker has only missed two games in his four-year career, both in his rookie season (2010).
As impressive as his stat line was last season (87 catches, 1,288 yards, 11 touchdowns), pretending that Decker's numbers are a true reflection of him as player and have nothing to do with Peyton Manning's presence would be naive.
As unfair as it is, Decker is viewed as somewhat of a "fraud" because of his inflated numbers. Decker's lack of elite speed and acceleration in and out of cuts prevents him from being a true No. 1 receiver. Even Decker himself admits that he is not on the same level from a talent perspective as someone like Demaryius Thomas, his former teammate:
As of now, Decker is the Jets' top receiver—by a wide margin. There is still plenty of time for the Jets to add a receiver in the draft or the remainder of free agency, but he will be the Jets' top offensive weapon on opening day.
This is Decker's chance to prove that he is not just a mere product of Peyton Manning's greatness. However, he will find that matching or even approaching his numbers from last season without Manning throwing to him or Demaryius Thomas lining up on the opposite side of him will be nearly impossible.
Decker may have been the best receiver on the market this year, but the Jets cannot be satisfied with the current state of their receiving corps even after making such a drastic move at the position.
The first wave of free agents have been signed, but there is still plenty of talent to be had that will help take some pressure off the Jets' $7 million man. The Jets have been linked to other free-agent receivers, according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net:
I'm told even if the New York Jets sign receiver Eric Decker in the coming days they will continue to pursue James Jones...— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) March 13, 2014
While neither Jones or Decker may be the ideal No. 1 receiver the Jets are targeting, adding a player like Green Bay's Jones will allow the Jets to enter the draft without feeling forced to take a receiver in the first two rounds. Otherwise, the Jets would have been forced to reach, diluting the overall talent on their roster.
Even if the Jets do add Jones, adding multiple receivers in the draft—especially early—is not out of the question. The Jets need to bolster their depth at the position, and this draft class is loaded with talent in every round.
After a somewhat rocky start to free agency, Idzik was able to rebound to get the Jets on the board with his first big-time signing as general manager of the team.
Contract information provided by OverTheCap.com.