Former Bronco Heading to the Big Apple
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he New York Jets had the worst passing game in the NFL in 2013, but on Wednesday took their first step in addressing a lack of skilled pass catchers. Eric Decker, arguably the top free agent wide receiver this offseason, signed a five-year, $36.25 million contract with New York that includes $15 million in guaranteed money. The Jets released Santonio Holmes earlier in the week and reportedly have interest in adding another receiver via free agency, potentially Green Bay’s James Jones.
Over the last two seasons, Decker was 11th in the NFL in receptions (172), ninth in receiving yards (2,352) and trailed just Jimmy Graham and Dez Bryant in receiving touchdowns (24). However, all of those statistics came as Denver’s number-two receiver, and teammate Demaryius Thomas equaled or bested Decker in each statistical category. Decker also had the advantage of playing the last two years with Peyton Manning in an up-tempo, receiver-friendly offense.
Having said that, I am not one that believes Decker’s numbers from the last two seasons are entirely attributable to Peyton Manning. In 2011, Decker had 612 yards receiving and eight touchdowns, but a strong start to the season with Kyle Orton as his quarterback was quickly torpedoed when Denver replaced Orton with Tim Tebow during the fifth game of the year. In the four full games that Orton played, the Broncos averaged 35.5 pass attempts and Decker had 20 receptions for 270 yards and four touchdowns. After Tebow became the starter, Denver averaged fewer than 24 passes per contest and Decker’s per-game production for catches, yards, and touchdowns each fell by at least 50%. It’s a relatively small non-Manning sample size, but Decker has demonstrated the ability to be a productive NFL receiver, even without an elite quarterback.
While his outlook would have been better had he stayed in Denver or signed with a team like Detroit, Decker will not be completely devoid of fantasy value in 2014. He is a big, skilled receiver and represents a huge upgrade over anything the Jets had in 2013. With New York seemingly committed to improving its offense overall, I think Decker can be a serviceable WR3 for fantasy owners next season.