Reports have surfaced that the New England Patriots will not put the franchise tag on wide receiver Wes Welker. The Patriots were not expected to slap the tag on Welker, like they did last off-season, because this time it would cost the team $11.4 million.
Wes Welker declined an offer of 2 years, $16 million of guaranteed money last off-season. The two sides were so far apart last year that the Patriots felt compelled to use the $9.4 million franchise tag to prevent him from leaving in free agency. Fast forward another year and the Patriots are in a similar situation with Welker but this time the Pats refuse to use the tag on Welker.
It appears Welker’s days in New England could be numbered, especially with the team having more pertinent issues to attend in free agency, such as trying to re-sign right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and cornerback Aqib Talib, while possibly trying to target free agent safety Ed Reed.
The Patriots could opt to use an internal replacement for Welker such as re-signing wide receiver Julian Edelman. But staying on the field has been an issue for Edelman as he has missed 10 games the past two seasons and 16 of a possible 64 in his four-year career. Also, Edelman may not be as suited to replace Welker in the slot position as people think. According to Pro Football Focus, Edelman has caught just for 69 yards out of 125 slot routes the past three years.
Although Wes Welker criticized the front office last year and saw limited playing time the first two weeks of the season, eventually Welker was able to have a fantastic year in 2012. Welker was second in the NFL in receptions (118), eighth in yards (1,354) and first in YAC (yards after catch) in 2012. Since joining the Patriots in 2007, Welker has 672 receptions, 7,459 yards and 37 touchdown receptions. But it appears Patriots fans have seen the last of the speedy, tough nosed, 5-foot-9-inch receiver and that is a scary thought given the Patriots struggles with draft selections for wide receivers in the past.