Yes, the man signed his franchise tag but New England needs Welker long-term for any shot at returning to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be any chance of a better deal either.
According to James Walker of ESPN back in mid-June:
The New England Patriots recently reached a six-year, $54 million contract extension with tight end Rob Gronkowski. It hasn't meant much thus far for Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker.
A source told ESPN.com Thursday that there's been "no meaningful progress" in recent weeks in contract talks between Welker and the Patriots. The 31-year-old Welker is currently playing on a one-year franchise tag worth $9.5 million.
Since, not much has evolved and in a video posted by ESPN, NFL Analyst John Clayton believes Welker could be a free agent for 2013.
To that end, the Patriots have to try and get a longer deal done now.
In five seasons with New England, Welker has caught 574 passes for 6,105 yards and has scored 31 times. And in four of the five years he has had 110-plus receptions and two with 120-plus.
Rob Gronkowski most certainly deserved his contract after putting on arguably the greatest single season performance of all-time by a tight end. As for Welker, you get the feeling that his drop in the Super Bowl can be partially attributed to his current situation in New England.
There's no doubt he should have made the catch but that's still only one play. And for anyone who has ever played/coached football, one play doesn't determine the outcome of any game at any level.
However, since joining the Patriots in 2007, Welker has been selected to four Pro Bowls and made four All-Pro teams. That kind of reliable consistency is extremely difficult to find outside of Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald in pro football, and although Tom Brady is a big part of that, the two go hand-in-hand.
Welker's presence alone in any formation most certainly was a factor in Gronkowski's production. As New England's best receiver, Welker drew attention from the better coverage defenders and the occasional double-team.
We also must remember that Gronk was virtually unknown prior to the 2011 season, so defenses weren't necessarily game-planning to isolate him either. Opponents were planning to isolate Welker which didn't work anyway because he still accounted for 1,569 yards on 122 catches and nine scores (easily the best season of his career across the board).
Plus, his 12.9 yards per reception was also the best of Welker's career. All of this in turn allowed Gronk to see consistent mismatches and his own skill set quickly developed. One other area of note is that Welker hasn't fumbled since the 2009 season and only four times since 2007.
For as much as he gets targeted by Brady and the blanketing coverage Welker endures through each week, being consistently reliable on any route and then not turning the ball over is impressive. Even Calvin Johnson, who is widely considered the league's best receiver, has significantly less receptions than Welker and has coughed up the rock twice as many times since 2007.
If Welker doesn't ever get signed to a long-term deal in New England, Gronkowski will see defenses totally focus on blanketing his production. Brandon Lloyd is a reliably solid target, but he too is 31-years-old and much less of a receiving threat.
After Brady, Welker is the most crucial piece of the Patriots' offensive puzzle to sustain an elite level of efficiency. Therefore, New England must sign him for longevity otherwise the immediate future will be rather disappointing.
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