While there is no replacement for Welker on the roster, that won’t matter. Neither will the Patriots’ abysmal record of drafting wideouts. The Patriots are simply not going to put an $11.4 million franchise tag on Welker, someone with intimate knowledge of the team’s thinking said.
Welker has averaged 112 receptions per season since joining the Pats in 2007, proving to be one of the league's most reliable targets out of the slot.
However, not using the franchise tag on Welker is a wise move by New England. The diminutive wideout will be 32 years old before next season starts, and it remains to be seen how he fits into the team's long-term plans.
Probably the biggest question concerns Wes Welker. He may still be the game’s best slot receiver, and most every team needs one. But do these Patriots?
With Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez signed to big, long-term contracts, we’re not so sure.
If I’m the Patriots, I let Welker walk, I don’t pay Brandon Lloyd’s $3 million option (making him a free agent), and I use that money to find the best X receiver on the market to threaten defenses down the left sideline.
Welker has plenty of skills indicative of an elite wide receiver: yards after the catch, defeating man-to-man underneath and downfield, splitting linebacker and Cover 2 zones and run-blocking when needed.
Over the past two seasons, he has caught 69.3 percent of the passes thrown his way, finishing with 240 receptions on 346 targets.
Should the Patriots use the franchise tag on Wes Welker?
Throughout Tom Brady's career, though, we have seen plenty of receivers and tight ends come and go through Bill Belichick's system.The legendary signal-caller has dominated regardless of how much experience—or lack thereof—his receiving targets possess.
So, regardless of how things end up with Welker is irrelevant to a certain degree. The Pats will remain the standard in the AFC East and Super Bowl contenders as long as No. 12 resides at the helm.