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Analysis: Would Decker fit with Patriots

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Eric Decker (87) catches a pass in front of New England Patriots linebacker James Harrison (92) during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

You may have already heard or seen in today’s patriots.com News Blitz that veteran WR Eric Decker, who’s currently a free agent, this week openly expressed interest in potentially joining the Patriots.

That begs the obvious question: Would Decker be a good fit with New England?

At the moment, the Patriots are pretty full at his position. Eleven players are listed as wide receivers on the 90-man roster, which also happens to be chock full as of today.

Of course, one of those players is special teams captain Matthew Slater, who normally doesn’t factor into the offensive depth chart. That leaves 10 current Patriots vying outright for roles as pass catchers heading into 2018 training camp.

Decker could be an intriguing addition to the competition. He is 31 years old and entering his ninth NFL season (first four with Denver, next three with the New York Jets, last season in Tennessee). At 6-3, 215, he’d be among the three or four biggest receivers in New England. He also has considerable experience, as well as a willingness, to play either in the slot or as a flanker… and you know how much Bill Belichick loves versatility in all his players.

“Obviously, my game is route running and just working zones and holes in certain coverages… I’m fine, honestly, being inside,” Decker declared three years ago when he was a Jet, “because [coaches] are still going to game-plan to get you open.”

During a radio interview on Wednesday, Decker also noted that he once played for Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. To be fair, though, that was in Decker’s rookie year (2010) and it was only for half a season before McDaniels was let go as head coach of the Denver Broncos. However, any familiarity with this complex offense is still worth acknowledging.

At this point in his career, Decker is admittedly no longer the No. 1 target he once was and would have to settle today for a complementary role with almost any team, including the Patriots. There’s a glut of such players already on New England’s roster right now, though most of them are younger and less proven than Decker. So, the coaching staff would have to consider whether they’d want to let one of those men go or sacrifice a player at another position in order to make room for Decker.

Given his productivity in the league – three 1,000-yard seasons, averaging 55 catches and a half-dozen touchdowns per season – it might be worth the Patriots’ while to explore finding a spot for him, at least during training camp.

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