Several reports over the last week have suggested that New England Patriots WR Wes Welker will holdout if the franchise which has promoted his prominence in the league, places the franchise tag on him prior to the start of free agency. I think that if Wes Welker gets the franchise tag placed on him for next season, he should simply show up, and play for the Patriots.
Several articles around the internet suggest that Wes Welker could be one of the most highly sought after free agents this season at the wide receiver position. Really? Oh, teams will likely go out and throw all sorts of money at Wes Welker if he is allowed to test the free agent market, but don’t think you’ll see the same production from him next season on another team. Welker, poised to turn 31 this offseason, has recorded 554 receptions for 6,105 yards and 31 scores during his tenure in New England. On which team does he replicate those numbers? Welker is a scheme receiver and he’s a perfect fit for the Patriots with QB Tom Brady under center.
Rumors suggest that AFC East rivals, the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills or the New York Jets would be willing to jump at the chance to sign Welker. Is this more of a sign of despiration to take one of the key pieces of the Patriots offense off their roster or do they seriously think he’ll make the same contribution under center for any of those teams next season?
Speculate all you want about Peyton Manning heading to Miami, reality suggests as things stand right now, Matt Moore will be under center for the team next year. Can Ryan Fitzpatrick or Mark Sanchez get 1,300 yards receiving yards out of Welker in 2012? A possible fit in Cleveland?
The truth of the matter is that Welker has blossomed in a system which allows the quarterback, and a pretty damn good one, to spread the ball around very quickly. The Patriots are able to utilize undersized receivers and aging running backs effectively. How many other teams in the NFL would RB Danny Woodhead be on the roster for? Julian Edelman?
I understand that Wes Welker realizes that this is likely his final big money contract that he will sign in his NFL career. A franchise tag brings with it a $9 million dollar paycheck for 2012 with the chance to sign a new deal after next season.
What this situation is going to come down to is determining what is more important for Wes Welker. The Patriots could place the franchise tag on him and he could sit for the majority of next season, playing only the number of required games in order to get another accrued season. Or, Welker could simply sign the tender and play for the reported $9 million the franchise tag brings with it.
Welker and his agent need to get something done with the Patriots before the March 5th deadline for the use of the franchise tag. Welker might get paid more by heading someplace else if he is allowed to become a free agent, but he has his best opportunity to win another championship right where he’s at. If Welker does leave the Patriots, there will be a chasm at the wide receiver position for the Patriots heading into 2012.