The know-it-alls keep saying: “Let Wes Welker walk. He’s small, he’s slow and he’s old. You can always pick up someone to replace him.”
How hard could it be to pick up someone who can average well over 100 catches per season like our friend Wes?
Looking back at the evidence, the answer is: Easier said than done. A quick review of the Patriots’ splendid record of drafting wide receivers over the past 15 drafts is revealing.
Since 1998, the Pats have never drafted a wide receiver in Round 1. But they have drafted four in the second round.
Just think of great athletes that we tabbed—record holders like Tony Simmons, immortals such as Bethel Johnson and Chad Jackson. Deion Branch was the only one who came even close to being a long-term or trusted regular.
Has Round 3 treated the Pats better? If the names Taylor Price and Brandon Tate give you confidence that the Pats know how to spot receiving talent, then I’ve got a bridge that I’d like to sell you.
In fact, the Patriots have been better off waiting till late, having gotten lucky with seventh-round picks like David Givens and Julian Edelman.
Well then, if not the draft, you can always come away with a free-agent wide receiver.
Hey, look at Joey Galloway, who accumulated 283 receptions and approximately 4,500 yards in Seattle. He was so successful transferring his skills to the Pats that they released him in Oct. of his first and only season with New England.
Or Chad Johnson, then Ochocinco. He led the AFC in receiving yards four times and went to five consecutive Pro Bowls. He picked up the offense right away, didn’t he?
And how about Brandon Lloyd. He already knew the offense from playing under Josh McDaniels. He wasn’t a total disaster, was he? Randy Moss was the closest thing to a real pass-catching find that the Patriots have identified in far too many years.
The Patriots have always followed the wisdom that it’s better to part ways with a player one year too early than a year too late, which translates into “dump Welker.”
But there’s another saying, something about a bird in hand rather than two in the bush that might be more relevant here.
Tom Brady, you are a wise man, having cleared the way for the Patriots to be able to afford your one healthy and trusted wide receiver.
A bit of advice if I may, Mr. Bill: Keeping Wes around, especially given your past history of spotting great receivers, might be a very wise way to spend the extra cash.