The most sought after offensive free agent in 2014 was signed tonight by the New York Jets. Eric Decker has reportedly signed a new deal to play for the New York Jets. The Jets have apparently let the market come to them, as they let the star wide receiver field offers for over 24 hours. Decker seemed to have thought he would have received a bigger deal from other teams.
Any time a free agent signs with a team other than his former, it has effects on the players around him as well as the teammates he left behind.
Let’s take a closer look.
Eric Decker, WR NYJ
Many believe Decker is not a premiere wide receiver in the NFL. Some say he was a product of playing with a great quarterback, although he has succeeded with lesser talents. No one believes Tim Tebow is the caliber of quarterback that Geno Smith is. I’m of the belief that if Decker can succeed under Tebow, he will certainly thrive under Smith.
The offensive systems of the Broncos and Jets could not be any different. The Broncos throw the ball more often than Rex Ryan talks. The Jets appreciate a run-heavy, ball control offense. How can this be a good thing for Decker? The Broncos threw the ball 675 times last year, 195 more than the Jets, but the Broncos fifth most targeted receiver, Knowshon Moreno (74), was targeted more than the Jets most targeted receiver, Jeremy Kerley (72) – this means the targets are clearly available for Decker. In Denver, Decker was a small fish in a big pond. Ironically, moving to the city known as “the big pond,” will make Decker a big fish. With the Jets next most heavily targeted receiver, Santonio Holmes, recently being released, the only receivers of note in the Jets locker room would be Kerley and Decker.
According to our March ADP, Decker is being drafted as the WR28 with an ADP of 50.2. I would expect those numbers to remain consistent after the signing. If those rankings decrease, it may be worth making an offer and cashing in on the impression New York is a bad landing spot for Decker.
Geno Smith, QB NYJ
Last year, Smith was thrust into an offense that was not friendly to a rookie quarterback. The Jets lacked premiere wide receivers, star running backs and consistency from their offensive line. Despite the inadequate supporting cast, Smith completed 56% of his passes on his way to a 3,000 yard passing season. Those numbers leave plenty of room for improvement, yet weren’t horrible for a rookie signal caller.
The Jets added Decker. Their running backs are getting healthy and seemingly are staying out of legal trouble. The offensive line still has two stars anchoring their unit. If they can play better as a whole, it isn’t out of the realm of possibilities to imagine this offense being vastly improved. Smith would be the primary benefactor of the upgraded offense.
Smith has routinely been overlooked in dynasty, and our March ADP reflects that. Smith is being drafted as the QB32 behind players like Brian Hoyer, Brock Osweiler and Mike Glennon. With an ADP of 232, Smith may be the cheapest starting quarterback in fantasy football.
Jeremy Kerley, WR NYJ
Despite being an average talent, Kerley did catch 43 balls for 523 yards and three touchdowns in 2013. He faced Brent Grimes, Aqib Talib, and Stephon Gilmore just within the division last year. When Decker comes to town, that would ensure Kerley not see opponents’ top corners.
I’d expect Kerley’s value to stay about where it is now. Currently he is being drafted as the WR99. In deep bench leagues, Kerley is a bargain for a guy who is almost guaranteed to catch three balls a game.
Peyton Manning, QB DEN
Many in the football community considered Decker to be out of Denver after his contract expired. After the Broncos gave Wes Welker a two year deal, the likelihood of Decker re-signing was slim to none. John Elway would like to give Demaryius Thomas a long term deal at some point and keeping Decker would hinder his ability to dish out money to another wide receiver. After signing TJ Ward, Talib, and DeMarcus Ware, the writing was on the wall for Decker. Manning set the record for touchdowns in a season last year with 55. He should have one more MVP-like season ahead of him next year.
Manning will likely still be one of the best quarterbacks in the game. Thomas, Welker and Julius Thomas are talented enough to rank among the leagues best group of receivers. Manning has endured the retirement of Marvin Harrison, his release from the Colts and he will brave the storm that is losing his secondary target in Denver. No reason to sour on this future gold jacket owner.
Demaryius Thomas, WR DEN
Thomas is one of the league’s most talented receivers. His size/speed/hands combination is equalled by only a few of his peers. With over 140 targets in each of the past two years, it is hard to imagine he gets many more balls thrown his way. With Welker and Julius Thomas keeping defenders honest, Thomas shouldn’t see a decrease in Manning’s attention, either.
Thomas has a March ADP of 7.7, as the WR6. Expect that to stay consistent.
Wes Welker, WR DEN
Welker’s 2013 season was only hindered by concussion issues. He instantly built a rapport with Manning and will continue to build on that in 2014. Welker hadn’t seen less than 122 targets in a year since he was a Miami Dolphin. Last year he was only targeted 110 times, leaving plenty of room for improvement.
If any Denver Bronco sees a spike in value due to Decker’s exit, I suspect it to be Welker. March ADP data shows Welker as the WR43 with an ADP of 90.3. Expect to see that number rise as the 32 year old receiver still holds value as long as Manning is in town.
For a complete rundown of all free agency moves, visit our 2014 offensive free agency blog, and our 2014 IDP free agency blog.
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