Ranking the nine best landing spots for ex-Jets receiver Eric Decker
From the Browns to the Bears to the Ravens, let's rank the best destinations for the ex-Jets receiver
June is supposed to be the quietest month on the NFL calendar. The draft and the bulk of free agency are over. Training camp is still a month away. Offseason team activities belong to the Christian Hackenbergs, Josh McCowns and Brock Osweilers of the league -- the ones who won't really matter when the season begins. June is supposed to be the NFL's hibernation period.
Not this June.
In the past couple weeks, we've seen two high-quality players surprisingly hit free agency. The first was Jeremy Maclin , after the Kansas City Chiefs surprisingly cut him. It didn't take long for him to find a new home, settling on the Baltimore Ravens . Now, it's Eric Decker 's turn. As part of the New York Jets ' ongoing roster purge, Decker hit the open market Monday.
As was the case with Maclin, it's rare when a player of Decker's caliber becomes a free agent. In three of his seven seasons, he has eclipsed 1,000 yards 10 touchdowns. He has averaged 0.55 touchdowns per game. Decker's former teammate, Brandon Marshall , averages 0.49 touchdowns per game. The point is that Decker might not belong in the upper tier of receivers -- he's no Odell Beckham , Antonio Brown or Julio Jones -- but he's in the group below. He's lethal in the red zone and can help a team.
So, which team will that be? Which team will be lucky enough to land Decker in June? Let's run through his nine best landing spots.
Recommended listening while we do that: a song aptly titled "June."
9. Chicago Bears
After letting Alshon Jeffery walk in free agency, the Bears don't have a proven receiver on their roster. Cameron Meredith turned into a surprisingly capable receiver last season, racking up 888 yards through the air, but the Bears probably don't envision him being their future WR1. That role is still intended for Kevin White , the team's first-round pick in 2015. But at this point in his career, White is an even bigger unknown than Meredith, having appeared in just four games over the past two seasons.
The Bears could use an upgrade at receiver. And no, Victor Cruz and Kendall Wright aren't the solutions to the problem. If they can get Decker to take a contract that won't jeopardize their long-term rebuilding plans, he could be their upgrade. But if it involves too many years and too much money, the Bears would be wise to stay clear of Decker.
The Bears have $29 million in available cap space, per Spotrac.
8. San Francisco 49ers
Similar to the Bears, the 49ers probably shouldn't sign Decker to a huge contract. But they certainly have a need at receiver -- they've had a need there for quite some time. Pierre Garcon is a fine player, but besides him, the roster is devoid of quality receivers. Marquise Goodwin and Bruce Ellington are their next-best receivers. That's not ideal for Brian Hoyer . Though, to be clear, it's also not ideal for the 49ers that their starting quarterback is Hoyer. Not much will be ideal for the team in 2017.
Decker would instantly become the best receiver on the roster. But -- again -- the 49ers are in the middle of a rebuild so they shouldn't hand him too much money for too many years, which would jeopardize their long-term future. That's why the 49ers are ranked low on this list, even if their need for a receiver is high.
Also of note: They have enough cap space in the form of $67 million.
7. Kansas City Chiefs
Here's an outside the box idea.
After cutting Maclin in a cost-cutting move, the Chiefs saved roughly $10 million. But now they're lacking a dependable receiver outside of tight end Travis Kelce. Could they get Decker to sign a cheap contract for the chance to play on a playoff team?
This seems unlikely, given how badly the Chiefs wanted to save money, but it would be a perfect football fit.
6. Philadelphia Eagles
Yes, the Eagles signed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith this offseason. Yes, they still have Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor on the roster. But if the Eagles signed Decker, they would immediately feature one of the best receiving groups in the NFL.
A Jeffery-Decker combo would look remarkably similar to the Jets' former Marshall-Decker duo in that their offense would be reliant on two big-bodied receivers who don't need to gain separation to be considered open. The Eagles invested a lot -- arguably too much -- in Carson Wentz . They should make sure he's well-equipped to succeed.
Unfortunately, money might prevent them from signing Decker. They have roughly $2.3 million left in cap space.
5. Cleveland Browns
The Browns aren't going to be bad forever. They're already in the middle of a smart rebuild that has the makings of being successful. But they're still, namely because they're still missing quality players at a few key positions. One of those positions? Wide receiver.
Maybe Corey Coleman will shine in his second season after a 33-catch rookie campaign interrupted by injury. But expecting him to turn into a top WR1 in his second season is asking too much. Decker could be the Browns' top receiver.
Remember, they had so much cap space that they were willing to eat Brock Osweiler's mega contract. They still have $60 million available.
4. Detroit Lions
They should've been in the running for Maclin. Now, they need to push for Decker.
Signing Decker would allow the team to trot out Marvin Jones on one sideline with Decker on the other. Meanwhile, Golden Tate -- arguably the most elusive slot receiver in the league -- would operate exclusively in the slot. That would be a heck of an offense.
The Lions lost left tackle Taylor Decker for 4-6 months due to an injury. Maybe it's time to add another Decker to the mix, even if he plays another position.
3. Buffalo Bills
The Bills missed out on Jeremy Maclin. They can't let Decker slip away now.
Depending on Sammy Watkins to stay healthy is a risky bet. Asking Zay Jones to immediately be a WR2-caliber player is asking a lot of a rookie. Letting Tyrod Taylor go out there without dependable targets is foolish, especially considering the Bills aren't stuck in ineptitude but in mediocrity, averaging eight wins in their past three seasons. Adding a player like Decker could push them into a wild-card spot (probably not, but you can understand why the front office might believe that).
It's usually the New England Patriots who take advantage of their rivals by stealing away their key contributors (see: how the Patriots stole Chris Hogan and Mike Gillislee from the Bills in consecutive offseasons). The Bills should take advantage of the Jets' roster purge by signing Decker.
2. Baltimore Ravens
The winners of the Maclin sweepstakes aren't done yet. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, they're still interested in acquiring Decker.
This would be quite the turn of events for the Ravens. A week ago, they were prepared to enter the season with Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman spearheading their passing attack. Now, there's a chance they'll have Maclin and Decker as their top two targets.
If only they had an elite quarterback to throw them the ball.
1. Tennessee Titans
Last week, I placed the Titans No. 2 on my list that ranked the teams with the best chance to end their playoff droughts. Adding Decker might elevate them to the top of that list.
The pieces are in place for the Titans to improve from a nine-win team to double digits. If Marcus Mariota can stay healthy, he'll be the second-best quarterback in the AFC South. The Titans have one of the best running games in all of football. They have a top tight end in Delanie Walker . They boast one of the league's best offensive lines, one that has youth on its side. Defense remains a question mark. So does receiver.
The Titans are counting on first-round pick Corey Davis to be Mariota's primary weapon, but there's often an adjustment period for rookie receivers. Decker would be Mariota's best target if he were to sign with the Titans.
The major aspects of the Titans' rebuild are complete. They did the hard part. They found their quarterback. They protected him with a dominant ground game and offensive line. Now, the Titans just need to continue tweaking and adding to their core.
It's not every June a player of Decker's caliber becomes available. They should take advantage of this rare situation.
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