One day after removing Jordan Matthews from their roster, the New England Patriots replaced him with another veteran wide receiver.
The Patriots intend to sign 31-year-old Eric Decker to a one-year contract, according to multiple reports Thursday afternoon. ESPN’s Adam Schefter was the first to report the impending signing.
New England must release a player to make room for Decker on the 90-man roster. No corresponding roster move has been reported, but offensive lineman Nate Theaker was not at practice Thursday.
Decker had been a free agent since his one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans expired in March. He played in all 16 games last season for Tennessee, catching 54 passes for 563 yards and one touchdown. One of his best games in a Titans uniform came in their divisional round loss to the Patriots, during which he caught six passes on seven targets for 85 yards — three yards shy of his single-game season high.
Before signing with Tennessee, Decker was a productive pass catcher for the Denver Broncos (2010 to 2013) and New York Jets (2014 to 2016). During a four-year span from 2012 to 2015, he amassed 4,341 receiving yards and caught 41 touchdown passes. A shoulder injury limited him to three games in 2016.
Listed at 6-foot-3, 214 pounds, Decker is a versatile wideout who can play either inside or outside. He lined up in the slot on 51 percent of his snaps last season despite being much bigger than a typical inside receiver.
Decker, who played under current Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in Denver early in his career, said in a radio interview last month he “would love” to play in New England. He worked out for the team on Monday, one day after Matthews suffered a hamstring injury in practice that led to his release.
Decker is the third receiver New England has added since training camp began last week, joining Devin Lucien and Paul Turner. Rounding out the receiving corps are Julian Edelman (who is suspended for the four games), Chris Hogan, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson, Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Mitchell, Riley McCarron, Braxton Berrios and special teamer Matthew Slater.
Britt (hamstring) and Mitchell (knee) both have yet to participate in a training camp practice.
Decker’s wife, Jessie James Decker, appeared to celebrate the reported signing on Twitter shortly after the news broke.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images