The New England Patriots and Wes Welker failed to reach an agreement to a contract extension prior to the league deadline of Monday at 4:00 p.m. Per NFL rules the two sides cannot sign a multi-year contract now until after the team’s final game of the 2012 season.
For the time being Welker will remain a Patriot and will be the recipient of a $9,500,000 guaranteed contract. But considering that the two sides have been unable to reach a long term agreement over the last five months, it would seem to be unlikely that they will work out a deal in the relatively small window of time between the end of the season and the start of free agency in March.
Wes Welker led the league in receptions for the third time in 2011, with 122 receptions
The Patriots will have the option of placing the franchise tag on Welker again next spring, at a price of about $11,400,000. However, if the team isn’t open to paying Welker what he was looking for during these negotiations, I cannot imagine that they would be willing to spend that much on him for the 2013 season – especially when you look at how much cap space Tom Brady ($21,800,000), Vince Wilfork ($10,600,000) and Logan Mankins ($10,000,000) will be taking up next year.
So why did a deal not get done? As I mentioned earlier, the CBA negotiations, the lockout, and Welker’s desire to not negotiate during the season played a part in this. The biggest reason that people bring up is Welker’s age, but I don’t think that the fact that he is over 30 should have been such a big issue.
Welker is a rare player that defies conventional wisdom. For example, look at what happened after he blew out his knee in Houston. Not only was he able to return for the start of the next season, he was able to do so at an exceptional level, as if the injury never happened. Last year at the age of 30 he caught 122 passes for 1,569 yards, and he has averaged 111 receptions per year since he arrived in Foxboro. The guy is tough as nails and has shown zero signs of any decline. I don’t see any reason to think that he could not maintain his current level of production for three years.
if when Welker departs, who takes his place? Julian Edelman is one name that has been brought up because he admirably filled in for Welker for two games a couple years ago, but he has done nothing to distinguish himself as a wide receiver since then. The Pats drafted Jeremy Ebert late, but he is a complete unknown at this point. Neither has the chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady that Welker has, nor the instincts, and determination to defy the odds and just make things happen.
I can’t help but think that some sort of creative deal couldn’t have been worked out that would have been acceptable to both sides, that would have kept Welker happy and allowed the team to still have enough flexibility to extend Aaron Hernandez in the near future.
Maybe I’m wrong and a new deal will get worked out next spring. However, I fear that is not the case and we will see Welker lining up in an opposing team’s uniform, carving up our defense with alarming ease.
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