Even though the New England Patriots suffered a shocking loss to the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday, following a missed field goal by Stephen Gostkowski, the biggest story to come out of Foxborough was the status of Wes Welker.
Welker, who has been a mainstay of the Patriots offense over the past five years, was again relegated to reserve duty behind usual backup Julian Edelman.
Even when Pro Bowl tight end Aaron Hernandez had to leave the game with a high ankle sprain, Welker remained on the sidelines, only periodically coming onto the field.
It was only in the second half when the New England offense was struggling mightily to move the chains that the Patriots used Welker in his usual role.
With Welker on the field, New England's offense improved significantly, as Brady was able to get into rhythm for the first time of the day.
Welker finished the game with five receptions for 95 yards, leading the Patriots in receiving yards on the day.
While these numbers, as well as the 63 snaps Welker was on the field, may seem great, those who have watched the Patriots over the past few years can tell something is definitely awry in Foxborough.
When Welker, an All-Pro four times during his five-year stint at New England, is on the field for 12 fewer plays than Julian Edelman, a seventh-round pick who had four receptions all of last season, the coaching really must be called into question.
With discussion about Welker's contract with the Patriots getting heated during the offseason, could Bill Belichick be getting back at Welker for the contentious nature of the negotiations?
The Patriots have gained a reputation for being a hard team to deal with, as the contract sagas of Vince Wilfork, Logan Mankins, Richard Seymour, Deion Branch and Asante Samuel have demonstrated.
Two years ago, Logan Mankins refused to sign his tender and didn't report to the Patriots until Week 6, as he tried to get a long-term contract.
Samuel was let go when the Patriots refused to pay him, while Seymour and Branch were traded when the Pats decided not to pay top dollar for either of them.
In Welker's case, he signed the franchise tender in good faith that an agreement would eventually be made. He reported to camp on time and has not said anything to the media in regards to his contract status.
But with the Patriots phasing Welker out of the offense, can he really afford to play out the season while spending significant time on the bench?
Welker will be 32 by the start of next season, so this contract will most likely be his last opportunity at securing a large deal.
And spending the majority of the season on the bench behind Edelman is not the way to get that new contract. Whether it be with New England or with another team, Welker needs to get himself on the field and produce if some team is to give him a new contract.
With that being said, if Belichick and company continue to phase Welker out of the offense, should the wideout ask for a trade?
As much as I believe in the mantra "In Bill We Trust," what the Patriots are doing to Welker is extremely unfair and quite disgraceful.
The Patriots seem to be deliberately sabotaging Welker’s worth in order to prove either that Welker is not as valuable to the team as he thinks or that the Patriots made Welker the great player that he is today.
Welker, who just broke Troy Brown’s Patriots reception record, has arguably been the most productive receiver in Patriots history and has been a big reason why the Patriots have had such a dominant offense since his arrival.
Two more slaps in the face for Welker were the large contracts handed out to tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Gronkowski and Hernandez are perhaps better players, and locking them up early was a great move by the Patriots front office, but to do it when their leading receiver remains without a long-term contract clearly illustrates the Patriots’ intentions with Welker.
With so much money given to other players in addition to Welker's dramatically reduced role on offense, it is evident that the Patriots are going to move on from the Wes Welker era in New England.
Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft have always run the franchise the right way and usually make the correct decisions when it comes to players and contracts, but no matter how they value Welker, deliberately diminishing his role in the offense is a cheap move.
Welker wants to be paid like the top receiver he is, but it looks as though he won’t get that money in New England.
If the Patriots continue to phase him out of the offense, Welker has no choice but to ask for a trade, as his value as a player and chance of obtaining a large contract would decrease significantly.