NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Eric Decker says he did his due diligence on 23-year-old quarterback Geno Smith before agreeing to join the New York Jets.
“I did research; I didn’t go into our meeting today blind,” Decker told the Denver Post. “When you go from a Hall of Fame quarterback, no one else, no matter who it is, can be on the same level.”
The Jets agreed to terms on Wednesday with the former Denver Broncos wide receiver, considered by many the top free agent at his position after two seasons catching passes from Peyton Manning. His deal is reportedly worth $36.25 million over five years.
Decker said it was obvious that Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg “really believes in this kid” Smith, who drew solid reviews in his rookie year but was also benched twice during a rough three-game stretch.
“When you look at the statistics, yeah, he got off to a slow start, but he was hurt early on and he finished the season strong,” Decker said. “He improved all season long in a tough market. That’s pretty impressive.”
Decker spent all day Wednesday at the Jets’ facility and had dinner with a contingent of team officials, including coach Rex Ryan. He gives Smith and the offense a sorely needed playmaker and No. 1-type wide receiver.
The Jets on Monday cut talented but oft-injured wide receiver Santonio Holmes after four seasons. The move saved the Jets $8.25 million, and Holmes was also scheduled to have a $10.75 million cap number, a lofty total for a one-time Super Bowl MVP who has struggled with inconsistency the last two seasons. He turned 30 last week.
The Jets get a rising star in Decker, who last season combined with Demaryius Thomas as the most prolific receiving tandem (2,718 yards) in the league, meshing with Manning all year. The 6-foot-3, 214-pound Decker, who’ll be 27 on Saturday, set career highs with 87 catches and 1,288 yards receiving to go along with 11 touchdowns. He had 85 receptions for 1,064 yards and a career-best 13 TDs in 2012.
“I’m excited about New York being my new community and starting a new chapter in my life,” Decker told the Denver Post. “On top of all that, my wife’s expecting our baby any second.”
Getting a top receiver was a priority as the Jets headed into free agency, especially after parting with Holmes.
Decker emerged late last season, with a four-touchdown breakout at Kansas City on Dec. 1. Until then, the only starring role Decker enjoyed with the Broncos had come in his reality TV show about his wedding to country and pop singer Jessie James.
He was in the final year of the contract he signed as a rookie four years ago with no extension in hand. He ended December with eight touchdowns for the Broncos, a triumph of sorts for a player who had contended with a balky shoulder and endless comparisons to teammates Thomas, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas. The slump-busting performance against the Chiefs did wonders for him as the Broncos advanced to the Super Bowl.
Also Wednesday, the Jets agreed to terms with former Seattle Seahawks right tackle Breno Giacomini, quickly finding a replacement for Austin Howard.
The Jets re-signed backup defensive lineman Leger Douzable to a one-year deal, too.
Giacomini missed seven games with a knee injury last season for Seattle, but was back in time for the Seahawks’ run to their Super Bowl title against Denver. The 6-foot-7, 318-pound Giacomini will replace Howard, who signed with Oakland as a free agent after starting every game the last two seasons. Giacomini was a fifth-round pick in 2008 of Green Bay, where he spent three seasons before spending the last three with Seattle.
Douzable signed with New York as a free agent last offseason and had 20 tackles and a career-high 1½ sacks.
The Jets earlier released cornerback Antonio Cromartie, clearing $17.75 million of salary cap space. New York could also save another $8.3 million if they cut quarterback Mark Sanchez, who missed last season with a shoulder injury.
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