The New England Patriots have a trio of major free agents set to his the market in Wes Welker, Sebastian Vollmer, and Aqib Talib, and different people think differently about who the Patriots priority is. At first, I, like most people, was touting Vollmer as the man to lock up first. But after reports from the Globe and CSNNE stating- in different ways, with CSNNE’s piece being more damning- that Brandon Lloyd might not be retained, it sounds like Welker is just as big of a priority.
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Regardless, the need to re-sign Welker has increased, and re-signing him got a lot easier once Tom Brady restructured his deal. Brady’s new contract will save the Patriots $15 million in cap room over the next two seasons, and it’s no coincidence that Welker and the Pats started hitting negotiations much harder than before after Brady’s deal. Jason Cole reported this morning that the Patriots will “probably” keep Welker, and the team seems quite close to a long-term deal (three years is the word on the street).
Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks wrote an excellent preview of the New England Patriots, and he listed Wes Welker as the team’s top priority this offseason. Banks believes that Welker will get a long-term deal that he deserves, and it is obvious that the Patriots won’t be loading over $11 million for one season by tagging Welker. The Pats most likely won’t use the tag this offseason, and that’s the way it should be. Borges already reported that the Pats never intended to give Welk the tag, and it’s far better to lock him up anyway.
The main reason why I enjoy Banks’s piece is the fact that he does due justice to Welker and his importance to the team, but I am disappointed to see that he did not mention anything about Vollmer being one of the four priorities and instead listed pass rush at third and “dangling” Ryan Mallett as the fourth priority. I view shopping Mallett as more of a “side-story” kind of thing as a way of gauging league interest and only swinging a very favorable deal.
Overall, Banks’s piece is worth the read, with his comments on Welker being the most interesting pieces of insight and the most notable bits to most Patriots fans. I used to feel like that each passing day meant less of a chance of Welker staying, but now each passing day seems to bring more optimism that Welker will stick around.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.