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Free agent snapshot: Eric Decker

01.30.14 at 9:36 pm ET
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When free agency begins in early March, there are a handful of players across the league who could appeal to New England. Over the next two weeks — with the understanding that the status of these players could change because of the franchise or transition tag –€” we’€™ll look at 10 possibilities for the Patriots to consider. We have to stress that these guys aren’€™t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class –€” instead, they are players we think would be a good fit in New England. We started our series with looks at Anquan Boldin, Emmanuel Sanders and Dennis Pitta. Today, it’€™s Eric Decker.

ERIC DECKER
Position: Wide receiver
Age: 26 (will turn 27 on March 15)
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 214 pounds

The skinny: You want to get back at a conference rival for swiping your elite-level pass catcher in free agency? Swipe theirs! OK, so it wouldn’t be as easy as that, but the idea of New England inking Decker a year after the Broncos picked up Wes Welker would be interesting, to say the least. Decker — who was taken three spots before the Patriots drafted Taylor Price in 2010 — finished the 2013 season with a career-best 87 catches for 1,288 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, and will hit the market at the perfect time, particularly if he’€™s able to help Denver win on Sunday. He’€™s durable (he hasn’€™t missed a game the last three years), has some positional versatility (he’€™s lined up at both the X and the Z while with the Broncos), and he has some value as a special teamer (he worked as a punt and kick returner relatively early in his career with the Broncos before the job was given to Trindon Holliday).

By the numbers: 63. Of Decker’€™s 87 catches in 2013, 63 of them went for first down, a rate of 72.4 percent and good enough for ninth in the league. Decker was also in the top 10 in receptions of 20 yards or more (19, tied for ninth) and receiving touchdowns (11, tied for eighth overall).

Why it would work: Several reasons: One, the Broncos have several expiring contracts — 17 unrestricted free agents, to be specific — and would be hard-pressed to retain them all, including Decker. (In that same vein, it appears unlikely Denver would be interested in franchising him.) And two, Decker’€™s background with Josh McDaniels (McDaniels was his head coach with the Broncos when he was drafted by Denver) could create a nice comfort zone for the receiver. In good cases and bad, McDaniels has brought several pass catchers with him from stops in Denver and St. Louis — Decker could be the next McDaniels import to sign with New England.

Why it might not work: Money. A distinctly lackluster class of free agent wide receivers could drive up Decker’€™s asking price, and right out of the Patriots’€™ price range.

Quote: “He did draft me, and I’€™m very thankful that he gave me the opportunity to be playing in the NFL, especially with such a great organization like Denver. I’ve got a lot of respect for him as a coach. He’s a brilliant mind, offensively. I’€™m sure, like any coach, he’€™s excited and he’€™s happy for the guys that he drafted.”€ — Decker, speaking this week about the impact McDaniels had on his career

Our take: It seems like something of a long-shot — after all, a guy who has had 216 catches over the last three seasons will draw plenty of interest on the open market, especially when you consider that it’ll be something of a depressed year for receivers’ contracts. Throw in the fact that the Patriots aren’t expected to have a ton of dough under the cap this spring, and it feels like Decker is a little out of their range. But Decker clearly has an affinity for McDaniels, and the Patriots offensive coordinator has managed to find a way to get many of the guys he favored at previous stops to Foxboro the last few years, a group that includes Brandon Lloyd, Michael Hoomanawanui, Daniel Fells, Danny Amendola and Greg Salas. It’€™ll be interesting to see that if the Patriots are going to be involved in the pursuit of Decker, how much of an influence McDaniels could have.

Read More: Eric Decker, free agent snapshot, Josh McDaniels, Wes Welker
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