The rumors are out. The New England Patriots might not franchise Wes Welker, which if it is true, that’s not a surprise given the cost would be $11.4 million. FanSided Musket Fire Lead Editor Joe Soriano raised an interesting question: if Welker doesn’t get the tag, then who gets it? Aqib Talib? Sebastian Vollmer?
The answer to this question is yet to be known, but the bottom line of all this frenzy is March 4 (due date to designate a franchise player) and March 12 (start of free agency) is traveling faster than the speed of light.
The entire existence of the Patriots in these past weeks seems to be revolved around Wes Welker. It’s almost like the geocentric model (Earth as the center of the universe) as it once was thought, but then realization came as the heliocentric model (Earth and planets revolve around a relatively stationary sun at the center of our solar system).
Does the Patriots Offense revolve around Wes Welker or does Wes Welker revolve around the New England Patriots?
The more I speculate about this theory, the more intriguing it gets. However, I prefer to suggest that either Wes Welker or the Patriots both would have a difficult time adjusting without the other.
Sure he is an outstanding wide receiver with ridiculous records such as the Patriots all-time (passing Troy Brown) leader in receptions (557), five consecutive Pro Bowl honors (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 season), owns the top five single-season reception totals in Patriots history – the list can go on and on. I really hate the thought of not having Welker in a Patriots uniform and I truly wonder if he would have the records he has without Tom Brady.
Football is an unforgiving business and it seems like it “has” to be this way – it is or it is not and don’t make meaning of it. Otherwise, without the toughness, it becomes like a New York Jets dilemma and soap opera.
Both sides have a tough decision to make, but at the end of the day, Welker is the one who might be between a rock and a hard place as Ron Borges of the Boston Herald points out how Welker can turn a good deal into a bad deal.
Yes he is turning 32 years-old this year, he wants to make as much money as possible before retiring and he also wants to win a super bowl. Looking from these three facts, I think that going with a team that presents a higher possibility of winning a super bowl is the best bet – even if the money is not the targeted price.
It’s noted the Patriots offense is not the same without Welker as we saw in early games last season when Julian Edelman was taking more snaps than Welker. Not signing Welker, the Patriots will add another defect to the roster instead of creating perfection.
This much we know, however, Welker does not know how well he will do in another team. Would he have the same impressive records as a Patriot with another team?
Obviously, we don’t know the answer to that question; neither does Welker. But knowing how talented he is in the slot receiver position, making precise cuts in his routes, and his bravery in going to the middle of field to catch rockets that only an elite quarterback (as Musket Fire staff writer Tim Dillon explains) can throw, I find it hard to imagine a quarterback that could replace Tom Brady for Welker’s success.
To make even more painful, let’s take into consideration these five teams that Welker could go to.
From all the scenarios, the Denver Broncos seems to be the most fitting. It’s so fitting that it’s almost scary to even think about it. It appears to me that in order for Welker to continue his production, it is crucial that he works with a caliber quarterback that is leveled-ranked as Tom Brady. Peyton Manning is an aging quarterback, and like Brady, he needs to make the most of his time to facilitate another championship. Having Welker on the field, will be in Peyton’s best interest for short-yardage passes as Welker runs short routes and goes in the middle like no one else.
Per Spotrac.com, the Denver Broncos has a roomy cap situation with a $14 million in cap rollover and roughly $14 million worth in cap space. Even if they place a tag of $9.6 million on Ryan Clady, which they are ready to unless a long-term deal can be negotiated by March 4, they still could maneuver well in free agency. Cuts will most likely happen, perhaps the backup quarterback Caleb Hanie ($1.25 million) and Willis McGahee ($2.5 million) due to injury. Restructuring Peyton Manning $20 million contract might be an option to allow some flexibility.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers is a team that has been under the radar, but the addition of a top-quality slot receiver would be a major improvement for the Buccaneers offense. Based on their past season, their major focus should be on the defense, primarily pass-defense and cornerbacks. Their fragile defense became even more vulnerable upon Aqib Talib’s four game suspension and departure to the New England Patriots. But their focus is also to provide as many offensive weapons Josh Freeman can get. Allocating one of the highest paid wide receiver, Vincent Jackson ($11 million), and Mike Williams ($540,000 with new contract negotiation on the way) on the outside will provide a better dynamic on the offense with Welker in the middle for short passes. Money might not be a problem for the Bucs with an estimated $31 million in cap room and $10 million in cap rollover. Like coach Bill Belichick, coach Greg Schiano likes to be a little ‘secretive” and “controversial” at times, so we’ll see in a couple days how the Bucs plan to invest their money. While it sounds like a great idea to the Bucs, will the Bucs be a good fit for Welker? Is Freeman accurate enough to read Welker’s dynamic routes? Having the right players in place, anything is possible in the NFL.
Not sure if Welker would be so willing to return to the Miami Dolphins. But sure enough, the Dolphins are a team in dire need of a wide receiver – a good wide receiver. As if need is not good enough, the Dolphins has plenty cap room (roughly $44 million) and $5.3 million in cap rollover allowing them to offer more money than any other team in the NFL. Nevertheless, is Ryan Tannehill a good fit for Welker?
Welker was originally signed as a rookie free agent by the San Diego Chargers in the spring of 2004 before going to the Miami Dolphins. Before the Charges take any consideration in offering Welker a deal, they would have to make many adjustments before the beginning of free agency as they roughly have $6 million in cap room and a little less than $1 million in cap rollover. If they put themselves in a position to bring Welker in, Phillip Rivers would have a dependable option at wide receiver. Is Rivers and the Chargers a good option for Welker? The offense would most likely move a little more consistent with Welker, but will it be enough to bring a championship? Rivers is a good quarterback and a bad quarterback at the same time. But like Joe Flacco, if he can get the support he needs around him, they might get close to a championship.
Matt Schaub is an above-average quarterback. But with some help, they might just make it. That’s when Wes Welker might complete the missing puzzle. The Houston Texans started strong last season. The defense’s struggle started in October when linebacker Brian Cushing torn his left knee ligament and remained out for the season. Trouble really heat up when tight end Owen Daniels was inactive in November due to back injury and was on-and-off for the remaining of the season. Daniel’s injury crippled the Texans offense as he was the primary target for middle routes. The Texans have around $6 million in cap room and $2.4 million in cap rollover. As March 12 approaches and all teams must be within NFL’s set salary cap (stipulated to be $121.1 million), if Welker doesn’t agree to stay in his Patriots uniform, the Texans could orchestrate something to fill in the void in the slot receiver position. If they start and sustain the entire 2013 season with Andre Johnson, Brian Cushing, J.J. Watt, Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Ben Tate in good health (add Welker in the mix), chances are they could go far.
How well could Welker work with Schaub? I think really well if Schaub gets a superb protection from the offensive line – just like Joe Flacco got it.
Follow Celia Westbrook on Twitter @celiawestbrook