As the Ravens awaited word on whether Jeremy Maclin would make it out of Buffalo without a deal and whether they'd be able to bring in the former Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver on a free-agent visit today, another veteran pass catcher moved closer to hitting the open market.
New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan confirmed to his team's beat reporters that the Jets will release 30-year-old wide receiver Eric Decker if they can't find a trade partner for him.
Decker has two years and nearly $15 million left on the five-year deal he signed with the Jets in 2014. He also carries an $8.75 million salary cap number for 2017. Perhaps, a team with plenty of salary cap space will be willing to absorb his contract, but the Ravens don't have that luxury. Any trade would almost certainly have to include an altered contract for Decker.
The Ravens, however, figure to be involved if Decker is released and available in free agency. That Decker is coming off both hip and shoulder surgery is certainly a cause for concern but he has been participating in the Jets' organized team activities and ESPN reported yesterday that he has been medically cleared.
If he indeed is healthy, a case could be made that he's every bit as good of a fit with the Ravens as Maclin would be. Content with speed threats Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman on the outside, the Ravens are looking for a big and physical target who can make plays on third down, in the red zone and from the slot.
According to Pro Football Focus, Decker caught seven touchdown passes from the slot in 2015, ranking third in the league. The 6-foot-3 and 206-pound receiver played in just three games last year because of the hip and shoulder issues, finishing with nine catches for 194 yards and two touchdowns. Before the injury-plagued year, he had shown durability, consistent production and an ability to find the end zone.
A third-round pick by the Denver Broncos in 2010, Decker missed just four games over his first six NFL seasons. From 2012 to 2015, Decker averaged just under 82 catches and 1,085 receiving yards per season. He also caught 41 touchdowns during that four-season span.
He doesn't wow anybody with his speed, but he's been able to make plays throughout his career.
Like with Maclin, the Ravens figure to have some competition for Decker. However, the Ravens can certainly sell opportunity – their depth chart at wide receiver is in flux behind Wallace and Perriman and pass-catching tight end Dennis Pitta recently sustained another career-threatening hip injury – and a stable quarterback situation with Joe Flacco entering his 10th season as the starter.
The Ravens' past success in integrating accomplished veteran receivers like Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith Sr., also should work in their favor. Despite the fact that the Ravens have missed the playoffs in three of the past four years, they are still a widely-respected organization around the league and they annually harbor realistic postseason expectations.
Would that be enough to woo Decker or are the Ravens still consumed by the idea of adding Maclin?
ESPN first reported that Maclin was scheduling a visit with the Ravens for Wednesday, but that visit was contingent on the 29-year-old not signing with the Bills. According to reports, Maclin spent the night in western New York, but a deal has yet to be reached.
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If Buffalo's front office and coaching staff wants Maclin as much as players LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor do, it's hard to believe they'll let the wide receiver leave town without a deal. But Maclin may want to explore other options and that would include the Ravens.
Like with Decker, Maclin is coming off arguably his worst NFL season. Because of groin issues, he played in just 12 games last year and set career lows in catches (44), yards (526) and touchdowns (two).
However, he's another veteran wide receiver who has a nice track record and carries some of the traits that Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has been looking for in a complementary wide receiver.
After not adding another outside target for Flacco in free agency and the draft, Newsome was adamant that other good options would become available. He was right.
Now, the Ravens have to figure out a way to sign one of them.