First Brandon Marshall, and now Eric Decker. Do the Jets not want any experienced receivers? This looks to be an incredibly risky move. With a guaranteed new starting quarterback next season in the form of either Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg, or Josh McCown, taking away all their best receivers seems a massive gamble. Have the Jets simply resigned themselves as being the next Cleveland Browns of the NFL? Or perhaps there is method behind the madness. RealSport takes a look at the possibilities behind this latest move.
After an injury to his rotator cuff in Week 3 last season Decker was out for the remainder of 2016. This was a rarity in the grand scheme of things as he had been a pretty consistent starter since his second season with the Broncos in 2011. Despite this, he remains a red jersey thanks to hip and shoulder surgery after his season ending injury last season. Perhaps the Jets view this an issue which may come back to haunt him in the future? And with his base salary rising to $7.25 million this year, it is possible that the Jets have decided he is too expensive for a severely injured 30-year-old.
Salary cap space
With the Jets currently sitting with approximately $23 million (top 51 players only) in salary cap space out of a $167 million allowance, it is hard to imagine that this is a big concern at this moment. However, with a long list of impending free agents next offseason it is possible that they are looking to build up cap space to roll over to next season. With the likes of Sheldon Richardson still on a rookie deal and set to be an unrestricted free agent next summer, the Jets will need to offer around the $12-13 million average salary up from his current deal of just over $2 million this year in base salary. His new contract, combined with those of other impending free agents such as Morris Claiborne and Demario Davis, will likely demand an increase in salary if they impress on their current one-year deals.
With this in mind, perhaps they are simply looking to use their large cap space and their large number of impending free agents to amass both an even larger amount of cap space as well as compensatory draft picks to focus on rebuilding from next year onwards using the strong looking drafts to come, and the very impressive list of free agents available – which includes the likes of Melvin Ingram, Nate Solder, and Terrelle Pryor, none of whom are guaranteed to be franchise tagged next offseason.
Another possibility (although this may be somewhat of a reach given a lack of proof in the press) is that he simply has had enough of trying to reach his potential within this seemingly self-destructive organisation. They clearly have no interest in players over 30 in the long run, and with plenty of other franchises on the look out for proven, experienced receivers, his services will be sought after and perhaps more appreciated. Not to mention he’d likely have a far better QB throwing to him at basically any other NFL team.
Waving the white flag?
Whilst the press and public can speculate for hours on end about why exactly the Jets have decided to release Decker, its safe to say this move all but confirms the one impression most have noticed from this franchise for a while now; they’ve already resigned to a poor 2017 season. They appear to be following in the footsteps of last years Browns in that they are willing to bite the bullet and endure a poor campaign in order to collect high draft picks for next year. Using a top three pick alongside their large cap space and extra compensatory draft picks to completely rejuvenate and rebuild this tired and unimpressive franchise would seem the most logical way to competing in 2018.
It’s safe to say that little can be expected of the Jets this season. Decker will likely find a #2 or #3 role somewhere in the league and should be good for a few more years, meanwhile the Jets can start again, and hopefully rediscover the form that this franchise and its fans deserve.
*EDIT: Since the time of publication it seems the Jets have held off from cutting Eric Decker and are trying to work out a trade. Whatever the outcome, it appears Decker will most definitely not be a New York Jet in Week 1
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