|Free agent snapshot: Eric Decker||01.30.14 at 9:36 pm ET|
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.
Position: Wide receiver
Age: 26 (will turn 27 on March 15)
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.
Carter picked the Seahawks to come away with the win on Sunday, but said there are two things the team needs to do at the start of the game in order to find success.
“Number one, from a Seattle standpoint, I’ll look at are they pinning Denver back,” Carter said. “Are they utilizing their special teams? Which I believe is an advantage in making Denver go the distance.
“From Seattle’s standpoint, people aren’t talking about their offensive line. Pass protection hasn’t been great. … The reason why [Russell Wilson is] ad libbing is because the offensive line has not been that consistent.”
Carter said the Seahawks will need to utilize Percy Harvin, who has played in just one game this season because of hip surgery.
“Hand him the football because you don’t have to have a lot of continuity,” Carter said. “Percy Harvin is one of the great runners in the National Football League — open-field running ability. … You also throw in some swing passes, don’t let the ball travel far before it gets in his hand.
“Those are the easiest ways, and you don’t have to have a lot of practice or timing with the quarterback to do that.”
|Wes Welker admits to Randy Moss: ‘I don’t care what it takes, you’re going to be out there in this game’||01.28.14 at 4:57 pm ET|
NEWARK — Who said former athletes and teammates can’t ask hard-hitting questions?
Former superstar receiver Randy Moss, who works now for Fox Sports 1, chatted up former teammate Wes Welker at Tuesday’s Super Bowl media day here and asked him if he would play in the Super Bowl with a concussion.
“What do you think? I mean, you want to be out there,” Welker told Moss, both of whom played in the Super Bowl XLII loss to the Giants. “The Super Bowl, this is what you dream about. You’re going to be there, I don’t care what it takes, you’re going to be out there in this game.”
Welker has dealt with many concussions over the course of his career, including one this season with the Broncos that forced him to miss the last two games of the regular season. When he returned in the playoffs against the Chargers, he wore an oversized helmet with extra padding, a helmet that prompted many comparisons to a cartoon character.
But concussions are certainly no joke and Welker has served as the poster boy for those critical of the NFL’s attitude toward dealing with concussions.
Moss, who retired this season after playing in last year’s Super Bowl, also asked Welker what he thought of playing against Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary, starring of course Richard Sherman.
“I expect to be effective just by doing what I do and going out there and playing hard. Playing tough and making plays over the middle, trying to move the sticks and put us in position to score some points,” Welker told Moss.
NEWARK — Wes Welker knew the question was coming.
What happened on his hit on Aqib Talib?
It was the play that knocked out the best defensive back in the Patriots secondary and changed the course of the AFC championship.
“It’s a rub play that everybody runs,’ Welker said at Tuesday’s Super Bowl media day at Newark’s Prudential Center. “It’s one of those deals where you try to get a rub on that guy and really, if you can get him to go over the top of you, the more separation the other receiver will have. That’s what I tried to do to get Demaryius a little more open and unfortunately we collided.”
Demaryius would be Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos wide receiver who dropped the pass on the crossing pattern over the middle, making the whole thing moot except for the little detail that Talib didn’t play another down after the play in the first half.
Welker was asked by The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy if if there were anything unusual about the play.
“I don’t think so,” said Welker.
Shaughnessy persisted, asking if he learned the play in New England under Bill Belichick.
“We ran the same play,” Welker replied.
Shaughnessy’s first question of the day was, “Why does Bill hate you?”
Welker dismissed that pretty much out of hand.
“I don’t know if he does,” Welker said. “That’s a question for him.”
|Peter King on M&M: ‘Not a surprise’ that Nick Caserio is interviewing with Dolphins||01.24.14 at 1:54 pm ET|
Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports made his weekly appearance on Mut & Merloni on Friday to talk about the general manger opening in Miami and last weekend’s AFC championship. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Friday morning that New England’s director of player personnel, Nick Caserio, was in Miami interviewing for the Dolphins general manager position.
“It’s not a surprise,” King said of the report. “If you’re a personnel guy for an NFL team, why wouldn’t you want to interview for a general manager’s job in which you’re going to have personnel control?”
According to King, the GM spot is a good position because of Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
“Ryan Tannehill has a chance to be a top-10 quarterback for the next 10 years,” King said. “Is he right now? He’s borderline. He’s not there right now, but he’s got a chance to be in the 8-12 range, and I think if you take over the job you’re going to have the ability to build around a quarterback instead of being in the endless search for a quarterback.
“I was talking to one coach in this division who doesn’t coach the Patriots this past summer on my training camp trip,” King added. “He said, ‘Look, Tom Brady‘s not playing forever. Bill Belichick‘s not coaching forever,’ and so at some point the Patriots are going to come back down to earth.
“I don’t know that that’s going to be in the next two or three years, but the day is coming where the Patriots are going to have to find another quarterback and eventually another coach. I have no idea when it’s going to be, but I would not be scared off by the fact that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are in New England if I’m interviewing for a job in that division.”
|Seahawks CB Walter Thurmond agrees with Bill Belichick about Wes Welker play: ‘It was really uncalled for’||01.23.14 at 1:05 pm ET|
The NFL might have cleared Broncos receiver Wes Welker for his hit on Aqib Talib that knocked the Patriots cornerback out of Sunday’s AFC championship game, but a player Welker will see in the Super Bowl wasn’t impressed.
“It was really uncalled for,” Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond told reporters Wednesday about the play. “The receiver ran right into the guy. I don’t know the extent of the injury Talib had, but I thought we were supposed to protect football players in this league now. I guess not. I guess that only goes one way.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Monday called it “one of the worst plays I’ve seen.” Thurmond didn’t go that far, but he said a flag should have been thrown. He suggested that because Welker is a well-known receiver, he got the benefit of the doubt.
“If you’re intentionally coming at somebody, it’s supposed to be a flag,” Thurmond said. “But they didn’t throw the flag on him. Some players get away with a lot more than other players depending on status, but that’s just the nature of the game.”
Added Thurmond: “Welker had his head down, like he was coming down the whole time. That should be a flag, and he should be getting fined. There’s a whole bunch of things that should happen in that situation, but I don’t run the NFL.”
“We play a lot of man coverage, so we know they’re going to have a lot of crossing routes like that,” he said. “We’re preparing for that situation to occur. We know that kind of contact is going to happen because we play so much man, and we’ll be ready for it.”
|NFL VP of officiating: Wes Welker hit on Aqib Talib ‘a legal hit’||01.22.14 at 11:04 pm ET|
NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino appeared on the NFL Network on Wednesday night and discussed Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker‘s hit on Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib in the AFC title game (click here for video of the appearance).
On if Welker’s hit on Talib was legal:
“It was a legal hit … Here’s Welker in the slot. The first potential foul would be for offensive pass interference; a receiver can’t block downfield before the ball is touched, so the timing is important. You’ll see Welker run the route and he does appear to angle back towards Talib and come into his path creating that contact. Now we have to look to see when was the ball touched in relation to the contact; you’ll see here the contact occurs, the ball is touched almost simultaneously. We don’t have a foul for pass interference. The other thing, is it unnecessary roughness? Under the current rules it isn’t. It’s not late, Talib wasn’t out of the play. Unfortunately there was an injury so just like in other situations when an injury does occur, the competition committee will take a look at this and determine if there needs to be a change. But under the current rules, this is a legal play.”
On if he has spoken with Patriots coach Bill Belichick regarding the play:
“Yeah, there was communication with Bill. We talked about the situation and the play, and obviously there is a difference of opinion there and something that we’ll continue to look at during the offseason.”
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.