With free agency fast approaching, the Denver Broncos face the potential departure of one of their starting receivers.
And the Broncos may not be all that upset about it happening.
Eric Decker, a third-round pick in 2010, hits the market on March 11. With big numbers over the last two years aided by the presence of Peyton Manning, Decker could be one of the few guys to get overpaid early in the process — especially by a cap-rich team with an owner who wants to make a splash for business purposes more than football reasons.
Some in league circles believe the Broncos hope Decker gets that big offer and pounces on it, so that the Broncos aren’t faced with the dilemma of paying Decker something in the range of $5 million per year or politely telling him they’re not interested.
With receiver Wes Welker counting for $8 million against the cap this year and both receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas entering the final year of their rookie deals, the Broncos have only so much cap space for pass catchers.
Decker seems to realize that the Broncos don’t want to make the investment necessary to keep him.
“I guess right now I can’t wait to get the process started, and then to get it over with so I can get settled and get ready for the next chapter in my life,” Decker recently told Mike Klis of the Denver Post.
While that “next chapter” primarily consists of welcoming a daughter to the world in the next week or two, his words suggest a finality as it relates to the only NFL home of his four-year career.
For the Broncos, it shouldn’t be difficult to replace Decker. Even with several veteran receivers re-signing in recent days, plenty will be flooding the market. And plenty would love to catch passes from Peyton Manning — especially after Decker shows that two seasons of Manning-fueled stats can result in a huge payday elsewhere.
That’s another reason for Denver to root for Decker to get paid. After the big-money phase of free agency ends, the Broncos can use Decker’s deal as the ultimate recruiting tool for a veteran receiver to sign a reasonable, short-term contract to play with Peyton.