ESPN's Adam Schefter reports:
Patriots free-agent WR Wes Welker has no plans to re-sign with New England before first testing the free-agent market next week.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 6, 2013
ESPN then reported more information on the decision:
New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker has no plans to re-sign with the team before first testing the free-agent market next week, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Unrestricted free agents can officially sign with other teams starting Tuesday.
Welker, 31, received the Patriots' franchise tag last offseason but New England didn't issue a franchise tender to any player for the 2013 season before this past Monday's deadline.
So, if Welker is to explore his options on the free-agency market, which teams would be most likely to make a move for the veteran receiver? Moreover, which franchises are the most appealing for Welker to choose if he's getting more than one future offer?
Read on and find out as we break down the best options for Welker.
Washington found a guy they wanted in Robert Griffin III in the 2012 NFL Draft; they aggressively went after him and they got him. And a year on, the Redskins have had a big year of success and an appearance in the NFL playoffs as a result.
Thus, if they were to want Welker here, you can expect they'd be aggressive and strong in enticing a move out of the veteran wide receiver. After all, he would be going to a team that's an instant playoff threat and one with one of the most incredible quarterbacks the league has ever seen.
And Washington have a pretty big need for a great, go-to slot receiver like Welker given that the franchise doesn't have too many alternatives. Santana Moss and Pierre Garcon are it for now, but with Moss 33 and slowing down noticeably, moving for Welker wouldn't be the worst play here.
The enticing thing about moving to the San Francisco 49ers is that you know they're in a strong position now to challenge for the Super Bowl and they'll likely still be in a strong position to challenge for the Super Bowl in five years time.
Jim Harbaugh has built an impressive squad with few needs at the moment. However, one of their biggest needs is out wide and Welker could be a good move here.
Randy Moss will leave in free agency, Mario Manningham isn't 100 percent yet and outside of Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, Colin Kaepernick doesn't have too many other options to throw to. Yet with Welker, he would finally have that quick slant option that he has never really had, and no doubt would love to have had on the goal line in the Super Bowl.
Imagine a read-option offense with Welker. Scary stuff.
Much like the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle have both a need for Welker and the ability to entice Welker to join their franchise in free agency.
Rookie Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to the playoffs in his first year without a great receiving core either—something that having Welker would no doubt improve. That's not to say anything against the likes of Golden Tate, it's just that Welker is a bigger and better player than he is. Period.
ESPN Insider reports that the Seahawks ranked 30th in the league for passing when using three or more receivers, making Welker a nice option here. And considering that he's joining a playoff team that looks primed for the future and isn't in the AFC, it might just make sense here for the veteran.
1. New England Patriots
Having said all of that, New England must still be considered the best landing spot for Welker and the most likely place for him to be playing in 2013. As long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are running the franchise, there's going to plenty of space (and catches) for Welker—it's simply guaranteed.
Questions started being asked whether he would have a future in New England before the start of last season, but Welker's year showed that he's still a more-than-valuable commodity to have. And expect the core Patriots guys to certainly know that as well.
Teams like Indianapolis, Denver and Houston are all improving at the moment and they'll become real threats to the Patriots' AFC dominance in the near future. If they let Welker leave, they simply do not have a guy who can come in and fill his role straight away, and as a result, they could see some of those other teams start to overtake them in the conference.
The Patriots, with Welker, had the best offense in the league last year.
Why they'd want to change that now doesn't make sense—especially in light of the emergence of several other contenders throughout the AFC.
Where do you think Wes Welker is most likely to end up in 2013?
Comment below or hit me up on Twitter.