Dissolving The Decker Dilemma in Denver

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Eric Decker

The latest argument/discussion in Broncos Country rests upon Eric Decker’s Free Agency and the Denver Broncos. There has been too much gnashing of teeth and plain malice towards one another on the subject, but I don’t think the entire situation has been laid out by anyone yet and in order to have a productive discourse, we should spread the data out on the floor so to speak.

BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO

The Broncos just made it to their first Super Bowl in fifteen, that’s 15 years. I don’t know about any other fan, but this guy thinks that dismantling the #1 Offense in 2013 would be disastrous. This is what got us to the Big Show. It filled the seats, it drove premium ticket prices through the roof. It even improved the economy of not only the greater Denver area, but the entire Front Range of Colorado.

John Elway spoke about team building on several occasions and I am going to paraphrase him instead of poking around for exact quotes, but he stated that the goal was to “win now while building for the future.” There is a large part of Pat Bowlen’s capital going into Peyton Manning’s pocket and PFM has only 1 or 2 years, realistically, left in his career. All the more reason to go “All in” for the franchise’s third Lombardi trophy. We will get into this further, but my main point is, it’s a huge mistake to break up the #1 Offense unless you have someone to replace these guys.

 

SALARY CAP

The Broncos have something like $12 Million in Free Salary Cap money at present. The exact numbers are somewhat irrelevant right now because the Free Agency period hasn’t begun yet. Nevertheless, there are obvious moves coming to free up some Cap space, i.e. Champ Bailey and trying to retain Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and possibly another 1-year deal for the 32 year old Shaun Phillips. Denver definitely needs to address its shortcomings on the Defensive side of the ball and since John Elway had an insiders view of Mike Shanahan’s “Ignore the Defense, we’re only one player away” mode of building the team, I don’t think we need to worry on that account.

So further action is needed by the Bronco Front Office before we can see how the 2014 team will be assembled. In other words, while we are only discussing Eric Decker, the rest of the team cannot be ignored and must be in consideration for the final picture.

 

VALUE

Now we come to the meat and potatoes. What is Eric Deckers value to the Broncos and what is he worth?

In the hierarchy of the Broncos, Peyton Manning is at the top of the Totem Pole with his 17-20 Million salary. The team is built around him. That is a given. The next man up, at least on Offense, is Demaryius Thomas. That too is easily acceptable. After that, the order of importance among the players can be argued. Ryan Clady and Julius Thomas would probably be in the picture and even though it would be a stretch, somebody out there would put Wes Welker’s name on the board. Decker’s name is up there too. Like I said, an argument could erupt over this.

We know the team will re-sign/extend Demaryius Thomas and probably Julius too in the next calendar year. That must be taken into consideration, but isn’t an immediate priority because they are both under contract for the 2014 season. What about Decker though?

We’re talking about a guy who led the team in receiving during his 2nd year and has averaged 86 catches, 1176 yards and 11 Touchdowns as a receiver in the last two seasons and also been a spot return man when needed. Granted, he has had a few issues with dropping passes, tripping over invisible turf monsters and getting off press coverage, but the production doesn’t lie. Those might not be #1 Receiver numbers on the 2012 or 2013 Denver Broncos, but there are more than a few teams that would give him #1 WR money.

10 Wide Receivers had more catches than Decker in 2013 and eleven had more yards, but only four had more Touchdowns. Since points, not catches or yards, are what wins games, Eric’s scoring production is equal to a No.1 Wide Receiver. Here are 15 Wideouts that Decker outscored last season.

  • Larry Fitzgerald
  • Josh Gordon
  • DeSean Jackson
  • Antonio Brown
  • Riley Cooper
  • Jordy Nelson
  • Anquan Boldin
  • Vincent Jackson
  • Julian Edelman
  • Doug Baldwin
  • Dwayne Bowe
  • Marques Colston
  • Andre Johnson
  • Mike Wallace
  • Victor Cruz

At least eleven of these guys are #1 Receivers, but my point is, there are 32 teams in the league and Decker is well inside the top 32 Wide Receivers in the NFL.

Now, as to the value Decker has for Peyton Manning and the Broncos dollar-wise, the Denver Offense would have the Thomas twins and Wes Welker for at least one more year. Then who? Andre Caldwell is also an Unrestricted Free Agent who made $900,000 in 2013 and as a 6th year veteran, will make more than that if he is resigned. Bubba can’t replace Decker’s numbers, much less match them and at 28, he is two years older. For the record, Andre had 3 Touchdown grabs in 2013.

No, the Adam Gase/Peyton Manning Offense requires multiple threats to keep rolling.

 

THE REPLACEMENTS

So who is going to step in and replace Eric if he walks? Who can waltz right in and take over for Decker and not lose a beat with Manning? If you think a rookie can do this then it would be worth trading to the top of the draft for such a wunderkind. Truth be told, even the best Wide Receiver in this year’s draft class will take at least a year before Peyton Manning is comfortable throwing the ball to him in a pressure situation. Like a real game.

So I ask you, would that in any way be a viable solution to assist in winning a Super Bowl while Peyton Manning is here in Denver?

Let’s take a look at some of the Free Agent Wide Receivers. I have them listed in their 2013 overall ranking order per Pro Football Focus. I also added their ages in parentheses, their 2013 base salary and Touchdown production. Decker was the 11th ranked Wideout last season. The next guy (Golden Tate) ranked #22 and the guy at the bottom (Tiquan Underwood) is #81.

 

  • Eric Decker – Broncos (26)……………2013: $1.32M…..11TD
  • Golden Tate – Seahawks (25)……………………$630K……..5TD
  • Jerricho Cotchery – Steelers (31)…………….$1.0M……10TD
  • Julian Edelman – Patriots (27)…………………$715K……..6TD
  • Jerome Simpson – Vikings (28)………………..$1.35M……1TD
  • Robert Meachem – Saints (29)…………………$5.0M……..2TD
  • Riley Cooper – Eagles (26)……………………….$630K……..8TD
  • Ted Ginn – Panthers (28)………………………..$750K………5TD
  • James Jones – Packers (29)…………………….$2.95M…….3TD
  • Emmanuel Sanders – Steelers (26)………….$2.5M………6TD
  • Jacoby Jones – Ravens (29)…………………….$3.0M………2TD
  • Josh Morgan – Redskins (28)………………….$3.8M………0TD
  • Hakeem Nicks – Giants (26)……………………$2.72M…….0TD
  • Dexter McCluster – Chiefs (25)………………$630K…….2TD
  • Tiquan Underwood – Buccaneers (27)……$715K…….4TD

See anyone you’d rather have in Orange?

Julian Edelman? Yeah, career marks of 10.2 yards per catch and a grand total of 10 Touchdowns, six of which were accomplished this past season. Dexter McCluster you say? 8.7 yards per catch and 5 whole Touchdowns. Anyone remember Eddie Royal? In his 4 seasons as a Bronco, he had a 10.2 yards per catch average and 9 Touchdowns. Eric has darn near matched the totals from all three of those players combined.

Two guys approach what Eric Decker was able to do here; The soon-to-be 32 year old Jerricho Cotchery and the ethnic sensitive 26 year old Riley Cooper. Now perhaps Cotchery has the savvy to come in and pick up the details of the Bronco Offense, and maybe he’d sign a 1 year deal for $1.5 to $2 Million for a chance at a Super Bowl ring. Riley Cooper might even be an acceptable replacement. He is the same age as Decker and they have a similar build. Riley’s average yards per catch is 2 yards better and he has been pretty good in the clutch for the Eagles. With the other names on the above list, it is difficult to say how the dollars will stack up for this class of Free Agents. Now if the Broncos could replace Decker with Cooper for $3.5-$4 Million a year, that would be a good trade off, but I’ll bet the Eagles will pay him that.

There has been speculation that Eric, or more likely his Agent Todd France, will be asking for $10 Million a season. I guess we will have to wait and see if there are any takers on that front. Is he worth it?

Sure, if he can get it.

The bigger question here is, how much is he worth in the Broncos Salary stratosphere.

John Elway or not, no NFL GM would pay TWO Wide Receiver teammates #1 money and Demaryius Thomas is the Broncos that money is reserved for. You can bank on that. Is Decker worth $6 to $8 Million? Well that is a little more reasonable, but it’s still higher than the team will go in my opinion.

Again, I think it would be a mistake for him to go and that both he and the team could bend a little to make a deal happen. Since Eric has stated he would like to stay, the only reasons I can see him leaving are bad advice from his Agent or his wife Jessica has Dollars signs in her eyes.

And I don’t even need to bring up the better shot at a ring for him to stay either.

 

SOLUTIONS

If Peyton Manning truly has 1 or maybe 2 seasons left in him, it would be wise to backload a deal with Decker that won’t be a problem when Peyton and his $20 Million fade into the sunset. An example would be a 3 year deal for $18.5 Million. The salary structure would look like $5 Million in the 1st, $6 Million in the 2nd year and $7 Million in the 3rd. Creative backloading this could show this as $10 Million in Signing Bonus money, which would be Prorated into the life of the contract. That leaves $3 Million per season as a base salary, but further manipulation of the numbers could make the base salary for the first 2 seasons at $1.5  Million per and $6 Million for the final season, which could always be renegotiated into an extension or simply cut the contract with $500,000 guaranteed money remaining. Either way, Manning will be gone, the Broncos still have their core intact and the Salary Cap is not an issue.

As I said, this scenario is just an example. A 4 or 5 year deal would move the money even farther out and all three sides (the Decker’s, the Broncos and the fans) could be happy.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

Go Broncos!

– Kaptain Kirk

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