The New England Patriots could trade slot receiver Wes Welker this season before the October 30th trade deadline, and several league sources told CBSSports.com’s Mike Freeman that “this is more than some remote possibility”. Freeman went on to write that it “might actually be a probability” after citing a team source earlier in the piece that said Welker is not being “phased out”.
I honestly agree with all this, and I think the reason why the Patriots were playing Julian Edelman over Welker was to see what they have in Edelman. They want to see if Edelman can be a legitimate starting slot receiver for them, and they want to see how he has progressed overall as a player. If the Patriots believe he has, then Welker is going to get traded.
Here’s the thing, the injury to Aaron Hernandez isn’t going to effect the chances of Welker being traded this season. The Pats are looking beyond Hernandez’s time frame, which dictates a return between Week 6 and Week 8. Guess what? The Week 8 game against the St. Louis Rams at Wembley falls before the deadline of the 30th on the 28th of October. Yeah, Hernandez’s injury isn’t a factor.
Another reason for Hernandez’s injury not being a factor is the fact that the Patriots signed both Deion Branch and Kellen Winslow Jr., which means that they can cope without having Hernandez or Welker against the Rams (if it ever came down to it).
The focus here is all on Julian Edelman, which is why the signings of Winslow and Branch shouldn’t effect him too much. With Hernandez out, Edelman is still going to be behind Brandon Lloyd and Rob Gronkowksi as options in the receiving game, and he will probably have a lesser role than Welker for the time being. That remains to be seen. If Edelman does receive more playing time than Welker- or at least an even amount- then that’s definitely a sign that the Pats are probably going to trade Welker.
A lot of what Freeman said in that piece is certainly within reason, but I’d like to describe the Patriots situation with Welker as being “fluid”. The Pats are “open” to trading Welker; it isn’t a foregone conclusion or anything close to the sort. You have to think the Pats are willing to a do a deal given his one-year, $9.5 million deal, the sort of money he wants, and the sort of money the Pats have tied up in Gronkwoski and Hernandez long-term.
I usually like to give my opinion instead of simply stating, “I trust what the Pats do.” I do, because they obviously know far more than I do, but it’s always important to have your own opinion. In this case, my opinion is basically trusting the Patriots evaluations of Edelman. If they think Edelman is ready, then I think they should trade Welker, provided a deal for Welker is sufficient and not simply a team throwing out useless draft picks.
An important thing to do throughout the whole process pertaining to Welker’s future in New England is to be open-minded about the possibility of trading Welker. It may or may not happen, but the fact is that the Pats aren’t simply punishing Welker. Why would they? Teams don’t operate under that sort of mentality; especially contenders. Playing Edelman to see if he is ready is the likely reason, and it’s important to realize that if the Pats are open to trading Welker (as sources say the organization is), then the fans should be more willing to discuss the possibility of Welker leaving.
I don’t want Welker to leave, nor do I think any Pats fan truly wants to see him go. But the NFL is a business, and teams have to operate under a strict business model. If the Pats feel that they have a good enough player in Edelman waiting under the wings, then they will be much less inclined to let Welker- a potentially valuable trade piece to a contender in need of receiver help- walk away after the season for free.
We’ll see, but I honestly wouldn’t call Welker being traded a probability quite yet. I’d like to hear your reactions as well in the comments section, so speak up. Let’s get some intelligent Pats discussion going, and I wouldn’t mind hearing some trade scenarios to get the ball rolling (if anyone is into that sort of thing).
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.