With less targets, however, comes less stress put on his body. Wes Welker is 31 years old and, with a torn ACL already in his past, can ill afford an injury this late in his career.
Welker has done a relatively great job fighting injuries, especially when you consider how taxing his yards after catch-heavy playing style is on his body. With age, though, inevitably comes injuries. A lesser role in this stage of the game could be exactly what Welker needs to prolong his career.
He's coming off a career-best season in touchdowns and receiving yards, and was one catch shy of his personal single-season high of 123 (2009). The season after that monstrous '09 campaign, however, Welker put up his worst stats as a Patriot: 86 catches for a total of 848 yards.
A lessened responsibility in Bill Belichick's offense could be what ultimately saves Welker's career.