Encouraging steps for Eric Decker, who belongs on Jets' roster if healthy

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Teams in the New York Jets' position -- rebuilding -- have to ask themselves this basic question when making personnel decisions:

Is Player A part of the problem or the solution?

If it's not the latter, send him on his way and give his job to a younger player. The Jets cast Nick Mangold, Brandon Marshall and Darrelle Revis in that category, and now they're ex-Jets.

It would be a mistake to add Eric Decker to that list.

Because he's 30 years old, makes a lot of money and is recovering from two surgeries, Decker's future has become a source of speculation. The rumblings got louder when they drafted wide receivers ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen in the third and fourth rounds, respectively.

But here's the deal: When healthy, Decker is still one of the 10 best players on the team, and he certainly appeared that way Tuesday for the start of OTA practices.

Wearing the red/non-contact jersey, which seems redundant because all off-season practices are supposed to be non-contact, Decker stood out in offensive drills. He made a handful of receptions, including a diving grab over the middle. While he's not 100 percent (hence the red jersey), he's on track for the start of training camp -- hardly a given when he underwent shoulder and hip surgeries last fall.

Coach Todd Bowles acknowledged Decker's positive start, but added, "No one is touching him right now. He looks healthy running around out there, so we’ll see as it goes."

Offensive coordinator John Morton was asked his early impressions of Decker, and all he said was, "I thought he moved around good."

Hardly effusive.

Decker is the most accomplished receiver on the team, and it's not even close for second. His best attribute is his route-running, and route-running is vital in Morton's West Coast-based system. He's an ideal fit in the offense.

On Tuesday (open to the media), Decker lined up in the slot in three-wide packages, with Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson on the outside -- a starting trio with complementary skill sets. There's a dropoff to the next tier, which includes Charone Peake, Stewart (injured) and Hansen. The Jets are high on the rookies, particularly Stewart, but they've got a ways to go.

The Jets would save $7.25 million of Decker's $8.75 million cap charge by releasing him with a post-June 1 designation, but what's the point? They have $7.9 million in cap room, which ranks 24th, according to overthecap.com. When they sign first-round pick Jamal Adams, they'll still have more than $4 million in room, some rainy-day money.

They could invest the Decker savings in inexpensive free agents, maybe backups at linebacker and safety, but that wouldn't be a wise distributions of assets. They have a solid, consistent professional in Decker. They should be looking to add guys like that, not toss them away.