Patriots

Analysis: Eric Decker is not just a vet WR looking for one last Hail Mary with Patriots

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(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Offensive skill position guys who are free agents say it all the time.

I’d be a great fit in New England. I could provide the Patriots with a dynamic new presence to their offense. I’d be the final piece of another championship puzzle.

Truth is, you can’t blame an offensive free-agent veteran who might not have a ton of options left to look toward the Patriots. They see what Tom Brady can do, and they believe the magic can work for them as well.

That’s why it was no surprise to hear veteran receiver Eric Decker make his pitch on Sirius XM Radio Wednesday. On the surface, the 31-year-old — who has played for the Broncos, Jets and Titans over the course of an eight-year career in the NFL — sounded like a lot of veteran free agents who are still on the market at this time of year. Please sign me.

(UPDATED, Thursday, Aug. 2 at 12:40 p.m.: The Patriots have reportedly agreed to a one-year deal for Decker.)

But once you get beyond the surface, there’s more to it than another case of a thirtysomething veteran wishing on a star for a shot with New England. Decker has a history with Josh McDaniels -- he was drafted by McDaniels in Denver in 2010. The Patriots are going to be without Julian Edelman (theoretically) for the first four games. Decker has the sort of skill set that might appeal to New England — he has a history of versatility, having played in the slot as well as outside, as late as last season. And I can’t imagine he’d cost New England much at all.

Decker has put up pretty impressive numbers over the course of his career — 439 career catches for 5,816 yards and 53 touchdowns. For some perspective, he’s been in the league one year less than Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola (he was drafted by Denver in 2010) but has more catches than either one of them.

But we’re interested in more than just the pedestrian totals. For some background on Decker, we went to Tom Gower, who has covered the Titans for the last several years for several outlets, including Football Outsiders. He said Decker’s versatility is one of his greatest traits.