As the NFL’s silly season (the combine, the draft, and the free agency period) approaches, there are many questions that the Denver Broncos must answer; both in house and in regard to free agents available from around the league. The most intriguing of the in-house free agents, in my opinion, is wide receiver, Eric Decker. Decker has established himself as one of the top 10-15 receivers in the league, which led to a question posed to me by my buddy, Aaron on my Facebook wall week a couple of weeks ago: Is Eric Decker a number one or a number two receiver? So I responded as anybody conflicted on the matter would, “Yes!”
I realize that I seem to have taken a politically correct stance, but to me, it is an honest answer. And since I am not running for office of any kind, I don’t have to fib about my real feelings. In my humble opinion, it really depends on where Decker applies his craft in 2014. I had a pen, and a phone, and a piece of paper. So I just started scribbling down the list of teams that have a legitimate, unquestioned number 1 receiver and a list of those who don’t. I even looked at a few of teams that have a #2 who may actually be a #1 but is really more of a tweener.
<<I know, I did not tell you there was going to be math included in this article>>
In my estimation, Eric Decker is a very good receiver and deserves to be paid as such. The gray area is whether or not he should be paid as an elite receiver on par with his current receiving mate, Demaryius Thomas, Calvin Johnson in Detroit, Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona, E.J. Green in Cincinnati, Julio Jones in Atlanta, or Dez Bryant in Dallas. Let’s face it, if paired with any of the aforementioned receivers, Decker is a clear-cut number 2. A very impressive #2, but a #2 just the same. So unless any of these teams are looking to stack its receiving corps, and have the cap space to do so, E.D. will be paid as a second option receiver.
Teams where I see Eric as a potential primary option in the passing game include (but are not limited to): Pittsburgh (I am not sure that Emmanual Sanders is a true #1), Tennessee, Jacksonville, the whole AFC East, and the defending Super Bowl champions, Seattle. In relation to Seattle, Golden Tate is a free agent and I am not convinced that he nor the other receivers have distinguished themselves as a primary receiver for the Seahawks.
Then there are the teams that probably slot Decker in as a 1A in the offense. Among those are the Giants (Cruz), Houston (I have questions about an an aging Andre’ Johnson), Indianapolis (Hilton), Washington (Garcon), Baltimore (T. Smith), and Green Bay (they basically have four 1A’s and Decker would slot right in as a 5th). Torrey Smith has been a good deep threat for Joe Flacco in Baltimore but his receiving partner on the other side of the field, Jacoby Jones is also a free agent. If Jones signs elsewhere, Decker would be a co-number 1 with Smith at best. Decker is a better route runner than Jones and has more reliable hands so he would be a good compliment to Smith.
Since wide receiver is a dependent position, the quarterback who’s throwing him the ball is as much of a factor in how Decker will be viewed. While in Denver, he has experienced both ends of the spectrum. In 2010 and 2011 he was on the other end of Tim Tebow‘s passes. Now I like Tebow a lot, but I recognize that his passing skills were minimal…and I am being nice. For the past two seasons, his passes came courtesy of, quite probably, the greatest quarterback to ever play the position, Peyton Manning! And if you look at Decker’s statistics, the dichotomy between 2010/2011 and 2012/2013 is stark! That said, I believe that his best options, money aside, are Pittsburgh (Roethlisberger), Indianapolis (Luck), Seattle (Wilson/the system), Green Bay (Rodgers), Baltimore (Flacco/the system), New York Giants (Eli needs a better route runner & E.D. will provide that), New England (Brady), or a return to Denver (PFM)…which I am hoping for. All of these teams have proven in the past 5 years or so – and some over a longer period of time – that they are never too far away from winning it all. So I think Eric could be one of the pieces that might help lead these teams to a championship; as either a number 1 or a number 2.
So in summary, the answer to the question of if Eric Decker is a number 1 or number 2 receiver, my answer is quite simply…Yes!