The $15 Million Question: Is Eric Decker a Number One Receiver?

Guest piece from Dennis Agapito of Let’s Talk Jets on Blogtalk Radio. He is our go-to guy for all things statistical and salary-based. Follow him on Twitter and check out his show.


Decker certainly isn’t paid like a number one wideout.

Bill Kostroun, NYP

Bill Kostroun, NYP

Since the free agent signing of receiver Eric Decker, fans of the New York Jets have asked if he is indeed a true number one wideout?  While this term can be difficult to accurately describe it would seem most wonder if Decker can produce statistics (172 REC, 2,352 YDS, 24 TD) similar to those he did while playing with Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

Decker signed a five-year, $36.25 million contract this offseason with the Jets that included $15 million in guaranteed salary, an average of $7.25 million per season. Why did Jets general manager John Idzik give Decker such a big contract, a number one receiver contract, even though it could be argued Decker’s numbers are simply a product of a high powered offense led by an eventual Hall of Fame quarterback?

It’s impossible to know what Decker can produce for the Jets in 2014, but is possible to compare the contract, including the always important guaranteed money within his deal, to other receivers in the league.

Certainly, there would be no argument that the Detroit Lions’ Calvin Johnson and Arizona Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald are number one NFL receivers. Johnson makes $16.2 million per season with over $46 million guaranteed, while Fitzgerald makes $16.15 million per year with $27 million guaranteed, under their current contracts.

Oddly enough, Fitzgerald had less than 1,000 yards receiving last season, while his teammate second-year receiver Michael Floyd had more yards (1,041) than Fitzgerald — so is Floyd better than Fitzgerald? Not likely given Fitzgerald’s career and the fact defenses look to double him up, creating more one-on-one opportunities to Floyd. So defining a number one receiver comes in more forms than just statistics.

Comparing other ‘number one’ receiver contracts to Decker’s

In 2013, the Miami Dolphins signed Mike Wallace for five-years, $60 million ($12 million per) with $30 million in guarantees. Wallace ended the year with less receiving yards than teammate Brian Hartline (2012: 74 REC, 1,083 YDS; 2013: 76 REC, 1,016 YDS) and Wallace is set to make $15 million, all guaranteed in 2014, the total amount of guarantees in Decker’s entire contract.

The Kansas City Chiefs signed Dwayne Bowe for five-years, $56 million ($11.2 million per) in 2013 with $20 million guaranteed (with an additional $4.25 million guaranteed this season). Bowe finished 2013 with 673 yards receiving and five touchdowns.

The Seattle Seahawks traded a first round pick to the Minnesota Vikings for Percy Harvin and gave him a six-year deal worth $64.24 million ($10.7 million per) with $14.5 million in guarantees, even though Harvin had never had a 1,000 yard receiving season during his career.

Harvin ended the regular season with one reception for 17 yards due to a hip issue, but did contribute a kick return for a touchdown in the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory. Of course, no one can predict injuries, but Seattle gave up a high draft pick and far more money per season than Decker will receive, but has yet to get the production expected from Harvin.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave Mike Williams, considered a number two receiver, a five-year, $39.6 million ($7.9 million per) with $9.4 million in guarantees, paying $8.33 million of the deal in 2013 only to end up trading him to the Buffalo Bills for a sixth round pick this offseason.

In comparison to these receivers, and even while no one knows what Decker will bring with a new team, quarterback, and system, his contract is very reasonable given past production.

Ask yourself if current Jets receiver Clyde Gates played in Decker’s place last year with Denver would he have produced the same statistics, even with Peyton Manning as his quarterback?

When signing a free agent, portions of a player’s value are based on past performance, in hopes they fit with their new team and can produce at a similar level. The deal can only be evaluated at the time it is negotiated and GM John Idzik and the Jets made a very fair signing while obtaining Decker. Only time will tell if he ends up being the number one receiver the Jets require.

All contract information courtesy of Spotrac.com.

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