The most coveted wide receiver on the free-agent market this offseason will be Eric Decker of the Denver Broncos.
The 26-year-old is coming off his best season as a pro, hauling in career-highs in receptions (87), receiving yards (1,288) and 100-yard games (5), and he caught 11 touchdown passes. While the Broncos would probably love to re-sign their own man and Decker would love to continue catching passes from Peyton Manning, this will most likely come down to money — and it’s unlikely Broncos will be able to afford to pay him as much as a receiver-needy team can.
Denver’s focus this offseason and next will be locking up Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas — both of whom are entering contract years in 2014 — and perhaps restructuring Von Miller’s contract. The offense didn’t miss a beat last season when Andre Caldwell was inserted into the lineup, so whether Caldwell is a viable option or Denver drafts a wideout in the middle-to-late round of the draft, it appears as if Decker is expendable.
The New York Jets were rumored to covet Decker, as the team is in desperate need a No. 1 wideout to help out Geno Smith as he enters his sophomore season. According to the New York Daily News, it’s unlikely Gang Green will overpay for Decker. General manager John Idzik won’t pay a king’s ransom for Decker as some members of the Jets’ front office are reportedly not sold on the receiver’s ability to be a true No. 1.
The Jets may end up regretting not signing Decker, especially if he ends up in the division with the New England Patriots. Josh McDaniels, the team’s offensive coordinator, drafted Decker out of Minnesota when he was the head coach of the Broncos, so perhaps a reunion is in the cards. New England signed Danny Amendola to a big deal last offseason but he did not live up to expectations. Julian Edelman is a free agent while both Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins need further development. Decker gives Tom Brady a veteran presence in the receiving corps to rely on.
Speaking of reunions, what about the San Diego Chargers, where former Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is now head coach. The Bolts have a budding playmaker in Keenan Allen, but Eddie Royal and Vincent Brown aren’t too threatening. Decker could complement Allen much like he did Demaryius Thomas and has the benefit of already knowing the system.
Some long shots to consider are the St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions. Whether it’s Sam Bradford or someone else under center in St. Louis, they could afford to upgrade their receiving corps. The Lions have consistently been on the lookout for a capable target opposite of Calvin Johnson. Decker would be a great fit, but the Lions may not be able to afford him.