If Patriots Let Wes Welker Walk, Where Could Stud WR Land in Free Agency?

Chris TrapassoAnalyst IAugust 28, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 9:   Wes Welker #83 of the New England Patriots catches a pass before a preseason game with New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on August 9, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

After signing tight end Rob Gronkowski to a six-year, $53 million extension in June and inking Aaron Hernandez to a five-year, $37.5 million extension earlier this week, the writing's on the wall for New England Patriots franchise player Wes Welker

At 31-years-old, the chances of him receiving another contract after his one-year franchise deal expires at the end of the 2012 season are slim. 

Welker and the high-powered Pats will look to make another Super Bowl in 2012, but let's look ahead to the teams who could look to sign the ultra-productive pass-catcher if he does indeed hit the free-agency market. 

Houston Texans 

A team that'll be looking to add the veteran Welker will likely be an established contender trying to find the last piece that'll push them to the Super Bowl.

What better team to do that than the Houston Texans, one of the most balanced squads in the AFC. They've been attempting to find a complement for their No. 1 wideout Andre Johnson for many seasons, and may have found one in 2012 draftee Keshawn Martin. 

However, he's only a rookie and it'll likely take him a year or two to become a force from the slot position. 

Kevin Walter was signed to a five-year deal in 2010, and plays the "Welker role" in Houston, but he severely underwhelmed in 2011, catching only 39 passes. 

With Welker, the Texans would have a reliable chain-mover, a guy opposing secondaries would be forced to pay attention to underneath, which would allow Johnson to work the deep middle and the running game to impose it's will throughout the duration of a game. 

They may be then forced to cut Walter who's been with the team since 2006, but it's obvious—Welker would be an instant upgrade at the slot position.

Denver Broncos

With Peyton Manning signed to a five-year deal, the Broncos will be searching for weapons to place around him to make a deep run in the postseason. 

The current receiving corps of Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Andre Caldwell and Brandon Stokley isn't horrific, but it's far from intimidating. 

As usual, Manning should elevate the play and subsequent statistics of many Broncos pass-catchers, but don't be shocked if the team's front office looks to bring more aerial firepower to the roster in Year 2 with Peyton. 

Stokley is familiar with Manning from their time together with the Colts, but at 36-years-old, he's at the end of his career and hasn't been healthy over the last two seasons. 

With Welker, the on-field lives of Thomas and Decker would be made much easier, and Manning would have a proven commodity to gain positive yardage when it's needed most. 

Atlanta Falcons

With Matt Ryan entrenched as the franchise quarterback who's experienced great regular-season success early in his career, a sound defense and a wide receiver duo many teams would die for, the Falcons are certainly in "win now" mode. They'll be fighting to get Ryan his first playoff win in 2012, and have a core of players suited to contend in the coming years. 

However, tight end Tony Gonzalez has intimated that this is likely his final season (via Atlanta Journal-Constitution), meaning the Falcons must find another steady target for Ryan to look for on critical third-downs. 

Moreover, at 30-years-old, Michael Turner is reaching the twilight of his running back career so Atlanta could be looking for someone to gain chunks of yardage on first down as well. 

Who'd be able to move the chains on third down and get drives going with positive gains on first down? 

Wes Welker. 

He, along with Roddy White and Julio Jones, would formulate one of the most difficult to defend receiving contingents in football with each player's varying skill set.