Eric Decker, Patriots Reportedly Agree to 1-Year Contract

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 2, 2018

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 10:  Eric Decker #87 of the Tennessee Titans signals after a first down catch in the first half of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 10, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The New England Patriots are expected to add veteran wide receiver Eric Decker to their offensive mix.

Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, Decker will receive a one-year deal from the defending AFC champions.

The 31-year-old spent the 2017 season with the Tennessee Titans. He was coming off a 2016 season with the New York Jets in which he played three games before undergoing surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff.

Decker proceeded to have one of the worst seasons of his career—excluding his injury-shortened 2016 campaign. He caught 54 passes for 563 yards and a touchdown. He ranked 87th in yards per reception (10.4) and was 51st among 86 qualified wideouts in DYAR (defense-adjusted yards above replacement), per Football Outsiders.

Decker did, however, have the third-best catch rate (65.1 percent) of his career, according to Pro Football Reference, and some perspective is required for his relatively low yards per catch. Among the 44 quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts, Marcus Mariota was 26th in adjusted yards per attempt (6.22), per Pro Football Reference's play index.

The Titans struggled to stretch the field with their passing game, which in turn dragged Decker's per-reception averages down.

In their year-end wide receiver rankings for Bleacher Report's NFL1000 series, Marcus Mosher and Joe Goodberry listed Decker as the No. 27 outside receiver and were generally bullish on his overall value:

"Though underused in the Titans offense (54 catches on 83 targets), Decker gets help from their designs. He's not as good on the boundary, as he lacks top-end speed, but in the slot and lined up in tight near the formation, the 30-year-old is a great weapon. He's an excellent route-runner who understands leverage and body positioning. However, 2017 saw more drops than normal for Decker."

Decker can still be an effective receiver, especially if he isn't a team's No. 1 or 2 option in the passing game. The fact that he didn't miss any time in 2017 would indicate he didn't deal with any lingering issues from his shoulder injury as well.

Decker doesn't offer New England a high ceiling. Although he cracked 1,000-plus receiving yards three times from 2012 to 2015, it's doubtful he can be that player again. At the same time, there's little chance he bottoms out in 2018 and ceases being a useful piece of an offense.

With most of the top free-agent receivers no longer available, Decker is a solid addition for head coach Bill Belichick.

The Patriots are without Julian Edelman for the first four games of the 2018 regular season while he serves a suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

The team acquired Cordarrelle Patterson in the offseason while selecting Braxton Berrios in the sixth round of the 2018 draft. Still, the Patriots didn't adequately replace Brandin Cooks, and Edelman's suspension provides another problem to start the year.

Decker adds further depth and experience to New England's receiving corps.


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