The Tennessee Titans have signed veteran wide receiver Eric Decker.
The Tennessee Titans have signed former New York Jets and Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker to a one year contract. After being released by the Jets last week, Decker met with the Titans coaching staff on Wednesday and spent the day watching the team’s minicamp practice. The terms of the contract were agreed to on June 18.
A third round pick of the Broncos in 2010, Decker has been a prominent red-zone force throughout his career. His combination of size and sneaky athleticism has made him a very reliable target over the last seven years, much to the delight of his quarterbacks.
Decker’s best season as a pro came in 2013 when he helped Peyton Manning break the single-season passing record by hauling in 87 catches for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns. Following that season, which ended with a Broncos loss in the Super Bowl, Decker signed a 5 year, $36.5 million contract as a free agent to play for the Jets.
Despite being thirty years old and having a lot of wear on his body from playing 95 NFL games, Jon Robinson and Mike Mularkey clearly believe that Decker has enough juice left in the tank to provide value to the Titans’ offense. Here are three reasons why bringing in Decker was a good decision for the Titans.
1. It’s just a one year contract.
Decker has had success throughout his career with all types of quarterbacks. Some of his greatest successes have come when catching the ball from Tim Tebow, an NFL castaway who currently plays baseball in the minor leagues; Ryan Fitzpatrick, a career journeyman and backup; and Peyton Manning, a future member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He now will get to work with Marcus Mariota, a budding star who’s looked like a veteran ever since the moment he stepped on an NFL gridiron. All signs point to Decker having potential for another respectable season. However, if things go awry due to his age or injury history, the Titans essentially have insurance.
Unlike teams in the early part of free agency who forked over expensive longterm contracts to veteran receivers, such as the Washington Redskins with Terrelle Pryor and the Cleveland Browns with Kenny Britt, the Titans’ salary cap will only be affected by Decker’s presence for one year. Because of this, it is literally impossible for signing Decker to ever be seen as a bad decision.
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If he’s really good and gives you the production you want, then you re-sign him for another year or two. If he struggles to make any kind of noise on the field, then you move on. It sounds simple, and it is.
2. He fits Mike Mularkey’s offense.
Over and over again last season, Mike Mularkey made the comment that his receivers were sloppy, and it really wasn’t all that surprising. Aside from Rishard Matthews, who has always been a quality route runner, none of the Titans receivers were very poised with their routes last year. Tajaé Sharpe was a fifth round rookie still learning the ins and outs of the NFL, Kendall Wright has always been more of a “street ball” player than a route runner, and Harry Douglas is, well, Harry Douglas.
In the 2017 NFL Draft, general manager Jon Robinson added two receivers who are both excellent route runners: Corey Davis of Western Michigan and Taywan Taylor of Western Kentucky. In Decker, the Titans get another pass catcher who is known for his attention to detail and ability to run quality routes.
Peyton Manning certainly wasn’t the most athletic quarterback to ever grace a football field and didn’t even have the biggest arm. Yet, he was one of the best to ever play because of his ability to get receivers where they needed to go and master the arts of anticipation and timing. Though his preparation was relentless and his ability to read defenses was impeccable, he couldn’t do it alone.
Decker played with Manning for two years in Denver, and produced a combined 2,352 receiving yards over those two years. If Eric Decker could please Manning, he certainly can do the same for Mularkey and offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie.
3. It takes pressure off of younger receivers.
Prior to Decker’s signing, the Titans were poised to begin the season with two rookies in their three wide receiver sets. Though both Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor have limitless ceilings and promise, it isn’t wise to heavily rely on young players, especially not to that degree.
After winning nine games in 2016 and coming up one short of the AFC South champion Houston Texans, the Titans want to take the next step this season and host a playoff game in Nashville. To put it bluntly, you can’t be a successful playoff team when two of your top three receivers are rookies. While youth is certainly an important aspect of team success, you cannot expect to move the ball consistently when rookies with zero NFL experience are the centerpieces of your offense.
Decker’s primary role will likely be in the slot, with Matthews and Davis on the outside. Taylor will be the #4 receiver and have the ability to play wherever he’s needed and learn all three receiver positions. In order for this system to be a success, Decker doesn’t need to be Wes Welker or Hines Ward. If he can provide Mariota with a consistently reliable target and security blanket over the middle (something the Titans lacked last season), he will be worth every penny of his contract.