Patriots Need to Get Welker a Long Term Deal

The New England Patriots have had a solid off season so far, but they may have hit their first speed bump.  Rather than sign Wes Welker to an extended contract, they used the franchise tag on Welker, which hasn’t been well received by the All Pro wide receiver.

Asked this week if he’ll report to the team’s off season training program, which begins on April 16, Welker responded, “I don’t know.”

“I’m not quite sure yet. We’ll have to wait and see how things go. But to tell you the truth, I really haven’t made up my mind yet.”

After quarterback Tom Brady, Welker is the next most important piece of the Patriots high powered offense.  Having him happy and focused is a critical piece for the Patriots and without a long term deal, he’s going to be distracted.

Wes Welker, photo by John Lanzafame

“I think the main thing is, I just want to focus on football and not have to worry about anything else,” Welker said. “That’s the hardest part. You’re trying not to be a distraction for the team, but at the same time, it’s a distraction for yourself. And you just want to be able to move on, and play football.”

The Patriots have surrounded Brady with more receiving weapons than he will know what to do with this season, although Brady being Brady, he’ll figure it out pretty quickly.  They added Brandon Lloyd to provide the missing deep threat to the offense, along with wide receivers Anthony Gonzalez and Donte Stallworth via free agency.  Second year tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have emerged as the best pair of receiving tight ends in the NFL.  The Patriots also re-signed Deion Branch and renegotiated Chad Ochocinco’s deal in the last few weeks.  It’s enough to make you think they will completely abandon the running game next season.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking Welker is expendable – it all starts with Welker.  The Patriots offense is a timing offense, and Brady and Welker have a shared view of the field that few quarterback-receiver combos can claim.  When the chips are down on a tough third down, Welker is the one that Brady counts on to make the catch.  With the exception of one VERY tough catch in the Super Bowl that Welker couldn’t pull down, he is one of the most sure handed receivers in the league.

Welker caught 122 passes last season, for 1,569 yards and 9 TDs, and he accounted for over 30 percent of Brady’s completions in the process.  Welker also accounted for 77 first downs.

His 122 receptions was tied for the fourth most in a single season, ever.  In fact, no other receiver has had more than 2 seasons with over 110 receptions, and the three receivers that have done that are as elite as they come – Jerry Rice, Chris Carter and Marvin Harrison.  Welker has done it four times.

Even if Lloyd becomes the kind of deep threat that Randy Moss was for the Patriots in his record-setting season of 2007, Welker remains a critical piece.  In 2007, Moss caught 98 balls for 1,493 yards and an NFL record 23 TDs.  But lost in the Moss highlight reel moments, Welker still caught 112 passes that season, for 1,175 yards and 8 TDs.

Welker tore an ACL during the 2009 season, so he knows how quickly things can change on the football field.  Having a long term contract in place means a lot to him, and it should mean a lot to the Patriots as well.  He acknowledges that the 2009 injury changes his perspective.

“It has a pretty big effect (on my outlook), because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Welker said. “Every day, every time you’re out there on the field, one misstep and you never know, everything you’ve worked for (could be) gone. It’s a risk that you take and a risk I took all last season. At least this time, it’ll be at a little higher pay.”

With the franchise tag, Welker will be paid about $9.4 million this coming season. That is about half of what he earned in total from the five-year deal he signed in 2007.  Welker has been the biggest receiving bargain in the NFL over the last five years, and now that his contract is up, he deserves a contract worthy of his elite status.

While receivers like Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson are locking down $100+ million deals, Welker has consistently out-performed them.  Just look at the numbers for the last five years (and keep in mind that in the middle of that five year stretch, Welker lost time to recover from a torn ACL):




Wes Welker



Larry Fitzgerald



Calvin Johnson



“The risk you put out there on the field, you never know what’s going to happen out there. I don’t think anybody knows that better than me,” Welker said.  “You definitely want that security, and want to be able to have that security and just play.”

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