Broncos’ Eric Decker dubbed ‘riskiest free agent’ of 2014 class

Denver Broncos
Eric Decker salutes Sports Authority Field fans after catching a touchdown pass from Peyton Manning on Oct. 28, 2012.

Eric Decker salutes Sports Authority Field fans after catching a touchdown pass from Peyton Manning on Oct. 28, 2012.

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DENVER — Should the Denver Broncos resign Eric Decker, or should they let him walk? It’s a hot-button issue floating around the Mile High City these days, considering one of the team’s fan favorites is set to become a free agent on March 11.

If you asked one NFL general manager, though, there’s an easy answer to that question.

Based on information he got from an unnamed NFL general manager, NFL.com columnist Adam Schein identified Decker as the riskiest free agent of the entire 2014 class.

“I think he (Decker) is really about to be overpaid,” the GM told Schein. “He’s a nice player, but he’s a product of the system and an all-time great quarterback.”

That quarterback would be Peyton Manning, who broke every NFL regular season passing record a season ago. Then again, Decker’s supporters might counter with the fact that as a second-year receiver, he led the Broncos in receiving when he was catching passes from Tim Tebow, who can’t even get a job as an NFL quarterback anymore, let alone be considered an all-time great.

Indisputable, however, is the idea that Decker is due for a big payday.

Entering his fifth year in the league, the 26-year-old is in his prime, and — risky or not — most regard him as the best free agent wide receiver available this year. Many have speculated Decker will get a deal worth around $9 million a year — a big bump from the $1.3 million he made last year with the Broncos.

If the Broncos were to resign him, it would mean less money to address other needs, especially on defense. And considering the Broncos defense was lit up for 43 points in an embarrassing 43-8 Super Bowl loss to the Seahawks, a team with an average statistical offense, most expect the Broncos won’t be able to ignore deficiencies on that side of the ball.

If the Broncos didn’t resign Decker, they have one possible replacement already on the roster in Andre Caldwell.

The 28-year-old isn’t quite as big as Decker, and he’s barely matched Decker’s 2013 production in the entirety of his 7-year career. But Caldwell is one of the fastest players on the team, and he was effective when he did get opportunities a year ago, In the Broncos’ 27-20 win over the San Diego Chargers, Caldwell led the team with 6 catches for 59 yards and two touchdowns.

The Broncos could also replace Decker with a free agent. However, the team likely won’t get a replacement of the same caliber as Decker if they go that route either, as this year’s free agent class only has six players who were consist starters a season ago.

Perhaps a better, cheaper option for the Broncos may be to seek a replacement in the draft. According to another anonymous NFL general quoted on NFL.com, many executives consider wide receiver to be the strongest position in this year’s draft.

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