Wes Welker was one of the biggest names of the NFL offseason. His consistency was unmatched by any player in the league during his time with the Patriots. His decision to sign with the Denver Broncos changed the course of the season for the entire AFC. But this is not the first time Welker has changed teams and altered the NFL. Let’s take a look back on what brought Wes Welker to the Broncos.
Welker Enters the NFL: After the 2004 draft, the San Diego Chargers signed an undrafted free agent wide receiver out of Texas Tech; they had no idea the talent they had signed. After the first game of the season, the Chargers cut Welker, much to the hindsight chagrin of Marty Schottenheimer. The Miami Dolphins were able to quickly persuade Welker to take his talents to… well you know.
The Dolphins gave Welker a much bigger role than what he had with San Diego, but still nowhere near what he would earn later in his career. He still wasn’t being used as a top option at receiver, but he was a key player for the Dolphins’ special teams. Welker returned punts and kickoffs in Miami, which drew interest from Bill Belichick.
The Dolphins traded Wes Welker to the New England Patriots for one second and one seventh round pick in the 2007 draft. Welker instantly caught on with Tom Brady. He caught 112 passes, tied for best in the NFL, in his first year as a Patriot. Over the next five seasons, Welker amassed 560 catches, which averages to 112 per season. He racked up numerous franchise and NFL records during his time with the New England Patriots.
The Patriots have missed the playoffs just one time (2008) since trading with Miami for Wes Welker.
Checking back on the Dolphins after Wes Welker: As I mentioned earlier, the Dolphins picked up a second and seventh round pick in the ensuing draft. Miami used their two picks on Samson Satele (C) and Abraham Wright (DE), respectively. Wright never did much for the Dolphins, and was cut after the season.
Center Samson Satele started all 16 games in both seasons he was with Miami, before being traded to the Oakland Raiders. The trade gave the Dolphins a sixth round pick, as well as swapping fourth round picks with the Raiders. The Dolphins used those picks on Brian Hartline (WR), and Andrew Gardner (OT) in the 2009 draft. Gardner was cut from the Dolphins, while Hartline is still with the team. Last season was Hartline’s best, totaling over 1,000 receiving yards on 74 catches.
The Dolphins have only made the playoffs one time (2008) since trading Wes Welker to the New England Patriots.
Welker’s Decision to Leave New England: After six impressive seasons with the Patriots, Wes Welker’s contract was set to expire, and the slot receiver expected to be paid handsomely. The Patriots were not prepared to devote such a high percentage of salary cap space to a receiver who was about to turn 32. New England had an offer on the table, but Welker felt it didn’t match his value.
Circumstances changed as the offseason progressed. Many fans thought the Patriots would retain Welker after Tom Brady took a pay cut and cleared cap space. But neither side seemed willing to negotiate, and New England had already started working towards a contingency plan, talking with Danny Amendola as soon as the free agency period began.
Ultimately, Wes Welker decided to walk away from Foxborough, and sign with the rival Denver Broncos; Danny Amendola inked a deal with the Pats the same day. Welker has been enjoying yet another productive season, and is on pace to demolish his career high in touchdown receptions this season.
Assuming Wes Welker clears all post-concussion tests, he will be making his much-anticipated return to Foxborough Sunday night. The Patriots and the Broncos are both in good positions to win their respective divisions and make the playoffs… And that is when the true impact of Welker’s decision will be measured.