Coach Bill Belichick and Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio have to address Welker's future. (Photo via NESN.com)
Once the 2013 free-agency frenzy arrives next March, Wes Welker will have a slew of suitors eyeing his services. Needless to say, the Patriots' hierarchy will have to make a bold decision.
The Patriots' ownership, head coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio have three options with Welker: re-tag him, re-sign him or let him walk.
Welker signed a five-year, $18.1 million deal with New England back in 2007, according to Shalise Manza-Young of the Boston Globe. In 2012, he will be paid more than half of that previous pact and earn top-five receiver money.
If the Patriots slap Welker with the tag again next offseason, he will see pay hike up to $11.4 million, cites ESPN.com's James Walker. Welker might refuse to sign another tender if he feels slighted. At that point, an extension would be a more cost-effective move.
The 31-year-old Welker hasn't shown any signs of regression, but New England is non-committal when it comes to older talent. ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss offered this sentiment in a Patriots mailbag:
The team might end up paying more in the end, but it would be managing the risk more conservatively if things head in the wrong direction.
The franchise tag may ensure Welker fully-guaranteed money, but it does not guarantee him the long-term security that he could find on the open market. If he suffers a serious injury like the torn ACL and MCL he did in January of 2010, what would he have to show for it?
The Patriots' reluctance to reach an extension with Welker may come back to bite the organization next year if another team shows him the money.
But for now, retaining Welker for the immediate future bodes well for the Pats' financial flexibility.