In order to fully understand the value that he has to this team, let's break down a few facts and statistics about the prolific slot receiver.
1. Welker is in what essentially is a contract year. Having had the franchise tag put on him, this is playing out to be either a springboard for more years to come or his last go-round with the Pats. Keep in mind that he has previously mentioned that he doesn’t “need” the money to play, but plays because he loves it and his team.
2. The Patriots employ a unique system, and some players fit into the system better than others. Chad Ochocinco might be a better athlete than Welker, but did not fit the system (also see Donte Stallworth and Anthony Gonzalez).
3. The Patriots want Welker, but don’t want to be left with an aging veteran that can’t contribute after a couple of years.
4. Welker has led the team in receptions for the past five years and is leading the team so far this year. He also led the league in receptions three of the past five years.
5. Wes Welker is 31 years old.
Why are all of these facts important to understanding the value of Welker? The dropped pass in the Super Bowl aside, Welker has meant more to this team other than anyone not named Tom Brady. It’s difficult to even put a numerical value on the value of a guy who is willing to run across the middle and take a pounding from hard-hitting linebackers.
Welker had seen his role diminish with the arrival of Weapon X Aaron Hernandez. They don't share similar characteristics—Hernandez is 6’ 1” and weights 245 lbs, Welker is 5’ 8 1/2” and about 185 lbs—but both do love to go across the middle and have a great first step. Welker is shifty and Hernandez plays football like he would salsa dance.
Since Hernandez’s high ankle sprain, Welker has shown why he has been Brady’s favorite target for the past five years. Welker’s value is so much more than just a slot receiver. Because of Welker, the outside receivers receive less attention. Gronkowski enjoyed a record year last year while teams still keyed on Welker.
Usually, a run game frees up the passing game, and until this year the Patriots really didn’t have much of a run game to speak of. Instead, it was a five yard out, or a three yard slant to put the Pats in a third and short situation. As part of the added value, Welker has essentially been part of the running game.
Special teams are an important part of the game and when a punt is muffed and the opposing team recovers it, that team has essentially advanced the ball about 45 yards. Welker has never lost a punt since being with the Patriots.
So just how much value does Welker carry? Besides the gaudy stats and the incredible toughness, he is a glue guy. He is the guy that carries himself well in the locker room and lets his body of work speak for itself. He exudes Patriots football: Don’t say much, say the right things and play hard. It takes a special kind of player to be a Patriot, you have be willing to play for less, compete for a spot, and get along with the rest of the team.
Welker has proven his worth many times over. Should he receive a contract? Who knows, but Welker has more value to the team than anyone not named Brady.