Tomorrow the NFL free agency market will officially open up, with players free to negotiate with any team. And while Wes Welker is one of the bigger names on the market, it looks like the wide receiver isn't going anywhere.
SI.com's Peter King reported this morning it's "widely believed" that Welker is going to re-sign with the Patriots.
As King points out, teams this year seem more willing to settle for lesser position players instead of dolling out big money. He sees slot receiver as one such position, stating:
One of the spots that could be happening is slot receiver, where Wes Welker (widely believed to be staying in New England), Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and lesser others clog the market.
Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter
Patriots free-agent WR Wes Welker has no plans to re-sign with New England before first testing the free-agent market next week.3/6/2013, 1:47:32 PM
Now Welker's back to square one. With the open market just around the corner, it's doubtful he re-signs before hitting the market, but it seems he will inevitably return to New England.
Which is the best move for the wide receiver.
The New England Patriots put Wes Welker on the map. He had more catches, receiving yards and touchdowns in his first year in New England than he did in the first three years of his career combined.
And now he's turned into one of the best receiving threats in the NFL. Even with an injury shortened 2010, Welker has averaged 112 catches and 1,243 receiving yards a year in six seasons with the Pats.
While some pundits have questioned Welker's ability to contribute at a high level on another team, it seems absurd to think leaving New England would see the wide out regress so dramatically.
With that said, it's doubtful he'll find a team he fits into as well as New England.
The Welker-Brady connection has become one of the most famous in football, and Brady obviously wants to keep his No. 1 target in town.
Everyone knows how I feel about Wes—how our whole team feels about Wes. He's one of the best players I've ever played with and played against. He's just a phenomenal player.
He's been the heart and soul of what our team is all about. He's been so selfless and the way he carries himself and commits himself to help our team win, it's second to none.
Another big reason for Welker to stay is the system.
The stats speak for themselves and prove that Welker has benefited from the Patriot's high-tempo offense.
New England's myriad of receiving threats is designed to always leave a man open. It's helped take pressure off Welker at times, letting him be a force on the field instead of getting smothered by defenders.
The Pats have also never had an issue going for short-to-mid length gains over tossing the big deep ball. That makes the slot receiver position vital.
As CBS Sport's Pete Prisco mused in a recent article discussing Welker and New England's system:
I just wonder what he would be like in another offense, where anticipation and creating favorable matchups aren't as pronounced. The Patriots play their offense inside/out because they don't have a deep passing threat. That's why Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are so important to the passing game.
While other teams operate similar quick schemes and have the necessary tools to spread out the field, no one does it like Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
Nothing is certain, and Peter King's report is far from absolute. But until something else comes up, it seems safe to assume Wes Welker will inevitably re-sign with New England.
And while it may not be a bold move on the wide receiver's part, it's the smartest one.