Certainly, after all these years, you wouldn’t expect Bill Belichick to find a diamond in the rough before the start of a season. There’s no way the Patriots would ever be able to bring somebody in during training camp and turn him into an impact player during the upcoming season.
So, what, am I supposed to believe that wide receiver Eric Decker is going to gain the trust of Tom Brady in such a short period of time and have immediate success with this offense?
I just hope you can sense my sarcasm.
Of course I expect Belichick to make a move like this. And I absolutely believe that Decker can be an impact player on the Patriots’ offense. In fact, I’ll be more surprised if the Decker signing doesn’t work out for New England.
The Patriots signed Decker to a one-year deal last week, reportedly worth a max value of $2.1 million at a cap hit of $1.5 million. If he shows he doesn’t belong, then it would only cost the Pats $75,000, which is the guaranteed money in the deal.
So it’s a low-risk, high-reward deal. But it’s one that I expect to pay off for both sides.
Decker turned 31 in March. He’s coming off a season with the Tennessee Titans in which he had 54 receptions for 563 yards and only one touchdown in all 16 regular-season games. That came after three years with the New York Jets.
While he was with the Jets, his former team, the Denver Broncos, won a Super Bowl. When Decker was with the Broncos for the first four seasons of his NFL career, he went to the Super Bowl in the 2013 season, only to have one reception for six yards in a 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Decker wanted to play for a contender. And no better place for him to go than to Foxboro.
The Patriots are the favorite to win Super Bowl LIII. But they’re also in need of a wide receiver, especially for the first four weeks of the season, when Julian Edelman will be serving his four-game PED suspension.
And with Jordan Matthews getting injured and then released, there’s even more of an opportunity for Decker to play a key role in Brady’s passing attack.
There’s always the possibility that, by the time you read this, Decker has been cut. Then we’d all say, “At least they gave it a shot.” But for that to happen, it would mean Decker either wasn’t in football shape, or he wasn’t motivated enough to absorb the Patriot Way.
He’s only 31, and he’s on the record over the summer on SiriusXM saying that he wanted to go somewhere where he can “compete for a Super Bowl and be in a good system.”
Check, and check.
And with a one-year deal, it’s clear that Decker is also playing to prove that he’s worthy of a multi-year deal into his mid-30’s. No better way to do that than by being a key contributor to a Super Bowl contender.
If he has the right mindset — and all indications are that he does — then Brady isn’t going to complain about adding an eight-year veteran who has 5,816 career receiving yards and 53 career touchdown receptions.
Regardless of where this relationship between the Patriots and Decker goes, I’m confident their offense will be just fine with Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan as Brady’s top-two targets until Edelman returns. But if Decker does end up playing an important role, it’ll be just another feather in Belichick’s cap.
And certainly, after all these years, you couldn’t be surprised to see that.
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