Before the 2012-13 season, the Indianapolis Colts began to be the subject of much speculation as team owner Jim Irsay hinted at a huge trade that was coming prior to the season opener. Numerous big-name players were rumored to be the target, including Mike Wallace and Maurice Jones-Drew.
One of the rumors—which was completely unsubstantiated and proven false—was that the target was Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker, whom the Patriots have had contract issues with for the last couple of offseasons.
Many Colts fans were excited at this prospect, thinking that Welker could come in and be another high-production veteran leader at a position with a lot of young players.
With over $40 million in cap space and wide receiver being a major positional need, the speculation isn't surprising. However, it would still be a poor move for the Colts to pick up the 31-year-old receiver in 2013 free agency spree for several reasons.
It's not that Welker wouldn't fit with Pep Hamilton's West Coast infusions in the Colts' new offense. In fact, the receiver's lateral quickness and knowledge of coverages make him a great addition to any West Coast offense.
His ability to stretch the field horizontally allows other receivers to find holes further down the field. That alone is a valuable asset, not to mention the ability to find the space in short and intermediate routes to pick up first downs—an asset to any efficient passing offense.
Unfortunately, this seemingly perfect match has a couple of problems, and one in particular.
The Colts already have a Wes Welker, and his name is Reggie Wayne.
Although Wayne has traditionally been split out wide on the left side, he spent 2012 all over the field, primarily in the slot. According to Pro Football Focus, Wayne spent about 60% of the year in the slot this past year, compared to about 20-25% in previous years with the Colts. He worked this new role to perfection throughout the season, arguably as the Colts' most valuable player.
Wayne no longer has the straight-line speed to blow by cornerbacks, but he still has the quickness, knowledge and hands to be a great possession receiver. Just as New England has used Welker on a plethora of hooks, shallow crossing routes and five-yard ins, Wayne made a living on similar route trees in 2012.
In addition to Wayne, the Colts should continue to utilize tight end Dwayne Allen in many short and intermediate routes. Throw in T.Y. Hilton, who can take a screen or slant an extra 15 yards in the blink of an eye, and you have more than enough weapons for the short passing game.
The areas where the Colts really need another weapon are in intermediate and deep zones.
With Wayne in the slot and Hilton outside, the Colts need one more split-wide guy—one that will command respect over the top but be able to get open in the 10-to-20-yard range as well. The prototypical fit would be a big target, as the team's current crop of wideouts is diminutive.
This red-zone target could be a free agent like Dwayne Bowe, but would more likely be picked up in Rounds 2-4 of the draft.
Even if Wayne was more of a split-wide receiver, Welker's age (he will be 32 when the season starts) and the money that he will demand make him a risk. While the Colts have gotten big returns on other ex-Patriots, such as Adam Vinatieri, Welker simply isn't a good enough fit to justify a big contract.
With Wayne already costing $14 million against the cap over the next two years, there is no reason to sign another aging slot receiver to a big contract.