Buyers beware: Decker's not elite

There's an infamous list of pretenders who've followed him as well: Peerless Price, Deion Branch, Javon Walker, Bert Emanuel, Jerry Porter, Yancey Thigpen and, most recently, Miami's Mike Wallace. All were players who cashed in on their success with one team. They subsequently struggled with more money in the bank and more pressure on their backs.

Decker is likely to attract a deal in the area of $10 million per year, given the money that's been paid to free-agent wide receivers in recent years. The leverage he'll wield might even push that price tag even higher. The Indianapolis Colts already have been suggested as a possible landing spot, with the New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs desperately needing help at receiver as well. The Chiefs saw firsthand what Decker can do when he's really on, as he scored four touchdowns and gained 174 receiving yards against them in a Broncos' win last December.

That game should've been the most memorable moment of Decker's 2014 season. Instead, the image of him locked up by Seattle's secondary in the Super Bowl is what should endure. Decker was a nonfactor in the biggest game of his career, a receiver who couldn't escape tight coverage on play after play in that contest.

With Thomas working against Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman on the other side of the field, the Broncos needed Decker to win consistently against Seattle's lesser defenders. He never did.

The question everybody should've been asking after that performance was obvious: If that's how Decker plays when he's not facing a team's best cover man, how is he going to live up to a huge deal over the course of an entire season?

It's important to note here that Decker wound up with one reception in that game largely because Manning stopped looking in his direction. The Broncos spent the entire second half feeding Thomas to the point that he set a Super Bowl record with 13 receptions.

So it will be interesting to see exactly how teams approach Decker in negotiations. He clearly is talented enough to help another franchise win games, but it's not as if he's bringing rare ability to the table.

As disappointing as Wallace was in Miami this past season, at least his breathtaking speed set him apart from everybody else in that free-agent class. You could at least understand why the Dolphins were so fascinated by his potential.

Decker, on the other hand, will need just as much talent around him at his next stop if he's going to deliver on his own promise. The mistake here is to think he's similar to Green Bay's Jordy Nelson, a player with similar size, speed and productivity. He's not. We've seen Nelson, who's one of the most underrated receivers in the league, display more big-play ability throughout his career, particularly in clutch moments. With a deal that averages about $5 million a season, Nelson also is one of the best bargains in the league.

Decker probably won't be able to make that claim once this offseason ends. He's going to get paid extremely well, and he's going to be asked to do things under much tougher circumstances.

The good news is that he's had a chance to learn from one of the game's greatest quarterbacks. The bad news is that Manning won't be with him once Decker finally has to prove just how good he really is.

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