Earlier this off-season, the New England Patriots signed tight end Rob Gronkowski to a six-year contract extension. On Monday the team signed tight end Aaron Hernandez to a five-year contract extension. All the while, Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker has been negotiating with the team but little progress has been made.
The drama of whether or not Welker would remain with the Patriots beyond 2012 has continued throughout the summer. Both sides seemed positive that something would get done and Welker would remain with the team long-term after their Super Bowl loss in February. But after the Patriots placed the franchise tag on the receiver and he signed his tender, Welker let the truth out. In fact negotiations had not been going well with both sides still far apart.
Gronkowski and Hernandez’s extensions have only created more separation between the two sides. Feeling that he should be the Patriots top priority, Welker has seen the Patriots bring in a Pro Bowl receiver in Brandon Lloyd and gives contract extensions to players with time left. While keeping the two tight ends around long term does benefit the team it creates more tension with Welker.
After Hernandez signed his new contract, the attention immediately became focused on Welker. Trying to sound positive Welker said he’s happy for Hernandez and that he deserves his extension. But when asked about how this could affect his future with the franchise, he referred those questions to head coach Bill Belichick.
On Friday Welker was absent from the Patriots third preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When asked about why he wasn’t playing, Welker simply cited “personal issues” and referred any other questions on the topic to Belichick. When Belichick was asked the same question he just said Welker was “day-to-day” and moved on.
All this has fueled one of the team’s current NFL rumors that Welker is likely on his way out. He is still a member of the Patriots for 2012 but this is likely his final season. However, there is also speculation that the Patriots may be looking at trade offers for Welker in an attempt to upgrade on defense or at running back. All that seems clear now is that Welker is not happy in his current situation.