Did the Pats make the right choice with Welker?
The New England Patriots had quite a busy offseason between free agency and the 2013 NFL draft. Some fan favorites were let go, a few veteran leaders were brought in and somehow, the Pats ended up with seven draft picks.
After a disappointing 28-13 loss to the Ravens in the AFC Championship, so many questions were stuck unanswered in the minds of Patriots fans worldwide. Two very important players, Wes Welker and Aqib Talib, were free agents, and the secondary was something that clearly needed to be addressed (though it's really has been an issue for several years).
The Patriots have made some very difficult decisions this offseason to get to where they are now. It's time to take a look at the Pats' best and worst offseason moves.
The defense played better after Talib was added to the rotation.
The best move that the Patriots made this offseason was bringing back cornerback Aqib Talib.
Talib agreed on a one-year deal with the Pats for $5 million. This was a great move with very little potential repercussions.
The team was able to keep their top cornerback and put away some money at the same time. Talib drew interest from around the league but decided to return to New England.
After the Patriots acquired him from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they won six out of their seven final regular-season games. Though his production was not amazing, Talib gave the secondary a bit more confidence as the go-to cover corner.
In the AFC Championship against the Ravens, Talib injured his thigh early on and the Pats' secondary was subsequently exposed by Joe Flacco, who threw three touchdowns in the game.
Talib was New England's best cornerback last year and will be again this season. He'll be giving his all on the gridiron in hopes of cashing in next offseason.
Will Welker have as much success with Manning as he did with Brady?
Wes Welker took a leap of faith last year by returning for the 2012 season with the Patriots. However, that faith was not enough to keep him in New England in 2013.
For what seemed like an eternity, Welker and the Pats could not even come close to an agreement this offseason. Ultimately, it led to the veteran wideout signing a two-year deal with Denver worth $12 million.
In response, the Patriots quickly replaced Welker with Danny Amendola. Welker had an unbelievable amount of success with the Pats, catching more than 650 passes for just under 7,500 yards in six seasons.
The Pats had to decide between bringing back Talib, Welker or Sebastian Vollmer, and it just seemed unlikely that all three would be able to return. They may have been concern with Welker's age, but even still, his production will not slip that much in the next two seasons.
Welker signed a relatively small deal with the Broncos to form a tough offense with Manning, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. It's a bit surprising that the Pats weren't willing to offer such a small and basic deal similar to what Welker got from Denver.
Amendola has many traits that are similar to Welker.
There are not many dynamic, reliable slot receivers in the NFL. For years, Wes Welker was the best in that position, but now the 32-year-old wideout has changed locker rooms.
All Danny Amendola had to do was play the waiting game. Other than Victor Cruz, who is a restricted free agent, Amendola was the next best slot option on the market.
Immediately after Welker signed with the Broncos, the Patriots locked up Amendola for the next five seasons in a deal worth $31 million.
That may seem like quite the risk for a player who has been hampered by injuries, but the Pats made a smart choice. The contract only guarantees Amendola $10 million, so if something goes terribly wrong, then at least the Pats will not owe him a ton of cash.
Though losing Welker obviously hurts, Amendola draws many comparisons. Both players came from a passing system at Texas Tech and can do some damage returning punts.
Amendola is much younger, however, and has the quickness and good hands to fit right in as the slot receiver for the Patriots. As long as he stays healthy, Amendola can definitely put up big-time stats as Brady's slot target.
The Pats could still use another pass-rusher.
The Patriots did a good job of addressing their needs in the secondary and at wide receiver. However, they could have added an established pass-rusher to improve their pass defense as well.
The defense will be better in 2013 with Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty all returning, as well as the addition of Adrian Wilson. Still, the Pats could use a consistent pass-rusher other than Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich.
Perhaps Jamie Collins, their first selection in this year's draft, will do the trick. However, there is no guarantee that Collins will turn into a great defender, and he was a relatively unknown player with very little hype surrounding him in the draft.
The safe bet may have been to bring in a veteran with plenty of experience getting past NFL linemen. Jones was slowed by injuries at times last season, and the Pats had no reliable defensive end behind him on the depth chart.
Collins was a surprising pick, especially with all the defensive-line talent available late in Round 1 and in Round 2 of the draft. He might not have such a big impact this season as he continues to learn the Pats' defense and how to become more consistent.
Dobson will get the opportunity to become a star in New England.
Everybody knew that the Patriots needed to address the wide receiver position in this year's draft due to the departures of Welker and Brandon Lloyd.
The Pats did a great job of finding two potential starters in Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce. Originally, it seemed very possible that they would use their first-round pick on a receiver.
Instead, the Pats traded away that pick in return for more selections in the draft, which ended up being a great move. They took Dobson late in Round 2 and took Boyce in Round 4.
Dobson, at 6'3" and 203 pounds, has crazy potential. He can make jaw-dropping catches and has the size to become the next great outside receiver for the Patriots.
Boyce was a steal for the Patriots, as he is an NFL-ready wideout with tremendous strength and great hands. The only thing holding him back is a broken bone in his foot.
NFL draft expert Mike Mayock praised the Pats' new wideouts:
"Josh Boyce would have gone higher if it wasn't for a foot injury this year. All of a sudden, New England's gotten bigger and physical on the edge. It's more toys for Tom Brady to play with."
The Patriots future at receiver looks far better now.
With Gronk's status worsening, Brady might have to rely more on his new targets.
Though there is so much potential for long-term success with the Patriots' new-look receiving corps, there is also the potential for failure.
With Welker and Lloyd gone, the Patriots have called on the likes of the oft-injured Amendola, veterans like Michael Jenkins and Lavelle Hawkins (who are just trying to sneak onto the roster) and a pair of rookies.
Tom Brady has to get used to a whole new group of receivers, which will be a challenge for the 2013 season. Only Julian Edelman returns as a regular contributor from the Pats' 2012 air attack.
The good thing is Brady still has his tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The bad news is Gronk's health. He recently had a fourth surgery done on his forearm, and according to Adam Schefter, he may need back surgery as well.
It is not going to be an easy task for Brady to get on the same page with all of his new weapons quickly. It will be extremely important for the star QB and his new wideouts to find their comfort zone over the next few months.