Denver Broncos receiver Eric Decker does plenty that causes him to be the butt of a lot of jokes.
From him tripping on the field when no one is near him, to his over-the-top jewelry commercials on the radio, to his reality show, and his photo spreads with his wife, Decker can be seen a different guy.
But one thing Decker does do is perform on the field.
From the day that Peyton Manning signed with the Broncos, the quarterback and Decker had a relationship. Manning doesn’t usually play favorites with his receivers but Decker was pretty close to the top of his list.
Now Decker is ready to hit free agency. He has two huge seasons with Manning under center. The receiver has 172 catches and 24 touchdowns. He was also over 1,000 yards in both season.
Decker even had a decent season with Tim Tebow throwing him the ball. As the Broncos offense went back to the 1920s, Decker still had 44 receptions and eight touchdowns.
The Broncos and John Elway have said they will let Decker test the market and come back with the best offer. Decker wants to be paid like a No. 1 receiver but the Broncos view him as a No. 2. A team could really overpay Decker and he may jump at the chance to get a big payday and be a No. 1 somewhere.
Denver wants to keep Decker. With Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker, the Broncos have one of the best receiving corps in the league. Adding the emerging Julius Thomas and the team has so many weapons.
Welker only has one year left on his deal and the window is closing for Manning so the Broncos are in win-now mode. But keeping Decker would be helpful for the next quarterback and not just Manning.
A lot of critics say the Broncos could find another Decker. They clearly view Demaryius Thomas as their No. 1 guy and he will be due for a big contract in the next offseason. But keeping the band together would be a smart move.
The Broncos don’t want to overpay anyone. They are willing to let all their free agents test the market. A couple guys on defense like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Shaun Phillips are tops on Denver’s list. Decker needs to be high on that list as well.
At times it seems like Decker can disappear in big games. No one really showed up in the Super Bowl loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Decker only had eight catches the whole postseason. And he really only had one good game, which was the AFC Championship game against the Patriots where he had five catches. He is also known to have his fair share of drops and has heard it from Manning several times.
With all that being said, Decker is still a key cog in the Broncos offensive juggernaut. All the talk is the Broncos need to be tougher after getting pushed around by the Seahawks but Denver is still built on offense.
Decker is not the top priority for Elway and that is understandable. But unless the Broncos have a master plan to replace Decker in free agency, it would be the best to sign Decker. Don’t give him No. 1 receiver money but make sure Decker knows he has a place on this roster and make another run at the Super Bowl.
Chris Schmaedeke is currently the Assistant Sports Editor at the Daily Camera in Boulder. He has worked in sports journalism in Colorado since 2001 when he started at the Rocky Mountain News. He has covered the Denver Broncos for several websites over the past two years.
Follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisSchmaedeke
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