After using the franchise tag last season on Wes Welker, the New England Patriots paid a slot receiver, probably the best in the NFL, $9.5 million for his services, but mostly bought themselves some time on making a decision. A year has almost gone by, and the Pats face the same dilemma once again.
There’s no doubt that Welker has been very productive with Tom Brady and the current offensive system; Welker has caught at least 111 passes on five of his six seasons with the Patriots. He finished with 118 receptions for 1354 yards and six touchdowns last season, but with the current crop of receivers and tight ends the Patriots have, retaining the 31 year old might be getting too expensive.
Despite everything said by Robert Kraft in recent interviews, giving Welker a long-term deal isn’t the first thing on his mind, unless that deal comes for peanuts. The Patriots are thinking this – franchising Welker once again doesn’t sound right, knowing it’ll cost them over $11 million next season. With two prominent tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, not to mention a draft pick they’re thinking about spending on a receiver, Welker, as experienced and capable as he is, especially in this system, just doesn’t make that much sense.
Another thing the Patriots know – Welker has been very successful, but the overall notion around the NFL is that he became great because of the quarterback and the head coach, and isn’t worth those kind of numbers, and certainly not that kind of money (4 year, $30 million?) he’s expecting to get paid, in New England or anywhere else.
The Patriots might also let Brandon Lloyd go as well, with the ability to avoid paying $3 million if they don’t pick up his option in the next few days. Like Welker, Lloyd comes with tons of experience, but not that much of an upside after 10 years in the NFL, when they feel they can get the same kind of production out of a cheaper, younger receiver. That’s the way it works when the system and the faith in it revolves around the head coach and his quarterback.