Wes Welker: Why Patriots Don't Need NFL's Best Possession WR to Contend
The New England Patriots' offense is like clockwork. If I were less aware of my current physical shape, I'd assume that I could thrive on the receiving end of Tom Brady's buttery-smooth passing attack.
They make it look too easy, and Wes Welker is definitely a part of that. But he's a smaller part than you think.
We may find out just how small after this season. According to NFL Network reporter Albert Breer, the Patriots and Welker failed to agree on a long-term contract before Monday's 4 p.m. ET deadline:
The Patriots and Wes Welker have failed to reach agreement on a long-term contract, per a source with knowledge of the situation.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) July 16, 2012
Now, Welker must play the 2012 season under a franchise tag and all talks of a new deal must hold until the regular season is over.
This doesn't mean that the Patriots can't sign Welker to a long-term deal. According to Yahoo! Sports' Doug Farrar, the Patriots could franchise Welker again in 2013, but it will cost the franchise nearly $12 million.
That's a steep hike from Welker's current tender of $9.515 million for the 2012 season, and it's not worth it. Welker has been incredibly resilient for his size (5'9'', 185 pounds), but at 31 years old he isn't getting any younger.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft had this to say to The Boston Globe's reporter Greg A. Bedard about that end of the situation:
Kraft said both sides want to complete a deal, but “it requires intelligence” and “what’s going to happen in the next few years with the cap, you have to have a core group of players that you can plan around as the foundation of your team.”
It sounds odd, but the NFL's leader in receptions for three of the past five seasons isn't, and shouldn't be, part of the Patriots' future plans.
In some offenses Welker would be difficult to replace, but how many times have we seen a "no-name" receiver benefit from Brady's deft touch? I don't have anything against David Patten, Troy Brown or the multitude of above-average tight ends who catch Brady's balls, but their signal-caller does the hard work.
New England's offense is built around timing and spacing. Welker understands the ins-and-outs of his position like no other player in the NFL, but the Patriots can replace him. They always have an inordinate amount of draft picks and potential slot players waiting in the wings.
Julian Edelman has shown that he's cut from the Welker cloth, and Jeremy Ebert showed the same skill set in his days with Northwestern. I'm not saying that either player will be Welker, but it's worth the risk if it saves you a $12 million season.
The Patriots have the NFL's best tight end tandem and a handful of capable veteran targets. They also have one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in the NFL steering their ship.
Welker is almost a guarantee to catch 100 passes every season, but his other skills are replaceable. New England's offense has always taken a committee approach, and Welker's loss wouldn't create an earth-shattering adjustment.
New England will benefit from Welker's services, for at least one more year, but his future is justifiably cloudy. The Patriots have always been a team-first squad, and one receiver's presence doesn't define their offense's success.
That won't change with or without Welker playing in Beantown.
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