Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos' Final Super Bowl Piece? Wes Welker

Jason Muckley@@jamuckleySenior Analyst IIFebruary 18, 2013

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 13:  Wes Welker #83 of the New England Patriots runs with the ball against the Houston Texans during the 2013 AFC Divisional Playoffs game at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Just days after the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl hopes were dashed by a completely misjudged deep ball toss from Joe Flacco past shaky sophomore safety Rahim Moore, speculation began swirling about who the Broncos needed to complete the puzzle.

Specifically, a fan favorite on one of the Broncos’ biggest rivals, the New England Patriots, has been connected to Denver via speculation ('s Bill Williamson sees it as a possibility). The Denver Broncos' final piece in a championship team is slot machine 2.0, Wes Welker.

Welker signed his exit from the Patriots last year after agreeing to the $9.515 million one-year tender the team offered him in 2012. Contract talks following his acquiescence quickly deteriorated into the situation they find themselves now entrenched in.

The Patriots don’t look like they will be re-signing him again this season with the franchise tag as’s Marc Sessler reports. The other factor in this decision of letting the mainstay, consistent producer for the perennial playoff contender go is the egomaniac Bill Belichick, who benched Welker in favor of Julian Edelman in the beginning of the 2012 season.

Belichick is famous for releasing the team’s aging stars in favor of inexperienced younger versions with mixed results. Welker has been largely underappreciated and underpaid during his time in New England, despite putting up astronomical stats during his six-year stint with the Patriots.

That’s where the Denver Broncos come in.

The Broncos could use one more offensive weapon for the surgical Peyton Manning to take their offense to the next level and seriously hamper their No. 1 rival for next year’s Lombardi Trophy. That piece without question is Wes Welker.

Signing a star like Welker would not only immediately upgrade the Broncos’ slot receiver position (sorry Brandon Stokley), but it would additionally stick its tongue out at the organization that has made Denver a laughingstock for the past three seasons. What would be even better about this scenario would be that the Broncos would show the Patriots how to treat top-caliber players.

Last season, Welker led the league in yards after the catch with 619, and the only knock on him is the occasional drop (15 last year, which was the same as in 2011). However, he was second in the league in receptions (118) and eighth in yards (1,354).

Manning to Welker in 2013 would be a sweet connection uniting one of the best short-passing quarterbacks with the league’s most dynamic inside, possession receiver at the expense of the Broncos’ greatest enemies, the New England Patriots.