Posted March 13, 2013

Wes Welker leaves Patriots, agrees to deal with Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, NFL Free Agency
Wes Welker

Last season Wes Welker had 118 receptions for 1354 total yards with the Patriots. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots likely to enter 2013 as heavy favorites in their divisions yet again, Denver’s move to sign wide receiver Wes Welker away from New England could have long-lasting implications in the AFC.

The Patriots hemmed and hawed over the possibility of a new deal for Welker for two seasons, slapping the franchise tag on him prior to 2012 and declining to do so this time around. They even had one last chance to retain Welker prior to his signing in Denver — he reportedly asked the Patriots if they would match the Broncos’ offer, before he made up his mind.

Whether the Patriots balked or did not meet Welker’s demands, the slot receiver agreed to a reported two-year, $12 million deal with Denver instead.

Free agent tracker and grades

This could bring about sea change in the AFC arms race. Thanks to their Super Bowl win, the Ravens are the de facto team to beat in that conference, but the Patriots and Broncos will head into next season as definite contenders. Welker’s move from New England to Denver gives Peyton Manning yet another outstanding option to throw to … and robs Tom Brady of his go-to weapon.

Welker caught 672 passes over his six years in New England and led the league in receptions three times. He made 118 grabs in 2012, despite the Patriots keeping him on the bench behind Julian Edelman to start the year.

Those arguing that Welker’s a product of New England’s system may have forgotten the 67 catches he had for a dismal Miami offense in 2006. That approach also overlooks the fact that Denver’s passing attack will be able to utilize Welker in many of the same ways New England did.

GALLERY: Free agents and their new teams

Manning now has Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Welker as his top three options. Welker should soar past the 45 receptions Brandon Stokley made as a slot weapon last season, even if some of those catches come at the expense of Thomas, Decker and tight end Joel Dreessen.

The Patriots spent more than half a decade torturing defenses with Welker’s inside presence. Now, they may have to figure out a way to stop him to get to next year’s Super Bowl.

Grade: A. This is easily one of the best pickups of free agency thus far, both because it makes Denver better and delivers a blow to its rival. Good luck stopping Manning next season.

47 comments
deniseblak
deniseblak

wow!!! speechless  no matter where he goes he is my top contender he will do good no mater what

 

MariaCGems
MariaCGems

Still can't believe this happened.  The Pats could afford what Wes wanted?  Tired of all the talk about what they can and won't pay a player.  Wes spent 6 years with the organization and was one of the toughest players they had.  Gronk and AH better stay healthy this season.  If you think Wes dropped balls from Brady, wait till Tom starts zooming them into Amendola and see if he can handle it.  I wish Wes the best in Denver.  

steven19
steven19

Dam what QB thorws the better quick outs and short routs better than P. Manning. A perfect fit in my opinion, but as a Raider fan "DAMMIT!!!"

childress.stephen1
childress.stephen1

A lot of pros and cons here.  Welker was a great check-down man in the center for relatively short gains, but at the same time Gronkowski and Fernandez were also getting a majority of their catches in the middle.  The upshot was that the Pats had no deep threat, and little variety past the 10-yard-out mark.  Consequently, defenses could--during the big games that counted (post-season)--concentrate on closing the middle and harassing Brady without worrying about a deep play.  That, along with a mediocre secondary on defense, has kept the Pats from being SB winners for eight years.  Welker did not get them to a SB title, nor could any one player, but that's how the Pats utilized him.  Clearly, Manning and Elworth see Welker as an added compliment to their proven deep receivers in order to stretch the field and open up thier receiving corps, and that's very smart.  Belichick is a smart guy, but he failed to do this, over-using Welker to the detriment of developing a more balanced offense.  A Boston Globe sportswriter mentioned that this trade will now force Belichick to change his strategy, and that Amendola will not just be used as a plug-in for Welker, with the same old offense.  You would think that Brady would be lobbying hard for deep receivers and something new to break the team out of an 8-year funk.  But the argument can be made that another year of dropping off short passes to Welker would just be the same old same old, an 13-3 record, no super bowl title and maybe even not making it into the divisional playoffs.  It is now looking pretty strongly like Denver and Baltimore vying for AFC.

6marK6
6marK6

This reminds me of the Josh Hamilton drama. The Pats got cute and they just lost their most lethal weapon. Only the Pats compounded the problem by signing Amendola, an extremely poor man's Welker.

riley8
riley8

Was this all just a big FU to the Pats best receiver?  I don't get it.  You replace a durable receiver in Welker with an injury liability in Amendola?  My guess is that Peyton Manning just got one up on Brady.  We shall see.

gonats2995
gonats2995

Amendola 5 years 30 million to the Pats. Welker got replaced pretty fast

Michael22
Michael22

if it is two-years $12M, I am shocked the pats dont match. The only explanation to me is the reported Welker attempt to make contact with the pats is untrue. Even if every cent of that is guaranteed, and I doubt it, that is mid-grade receiver money with no long term commitment. A $6Mil cap hit for a WR is reasonable, about 2/3 the price of the overpaid Garcon, DeSean Jackson, or Santonio Holmes.

RS1022
RS1022

Why they didn't match this offer is either foolish or arrogant. Welker helps Denver immensely by putting less pressure on Manning to throw deep. If the Pats are anything, it is adaptable. I could see Hernandez being their slot receiver.

CobyPreimesberger
CobyPreimesberger

this goes to show having a guy like John Elway running your orignization and how smart he is, I mean 2 years 12 million that is a steal.  Plus again if your a defensive cordinatior you dread when the Broncos get in the red zone good luck trying to stop them whoever you double cover you leave two other guys wide open.  Also you look at how Manning started to improve in Indy it was not the great 1 or 2, it was the slot guy he could go to as the #3, I mean look at Pierre Garcon, remember when anthony gonzalez went down, Garcon stepped up, and what happened it made other teams look at him as a #1 or #2.  You might as well just hand the AFC West once again to the Broncos, when the season ends between the 3 thomas,decker and Welker, they will likely have 300 catches and 30 td's combined

bbc
bbc

As a Pats fan I'm p***ed how the free agency has panned out so far. Pats haven't addressed any of the following concerns...

 

1. Lack of DBs which most probably will get worse once Talib leaves as well.

2. Lack of pass rushers. NE hardly gets consistent pressure on opposing QBs and that's why they have to duke it out with their opponents and are found out when they face a good defense.

3. Lack of a big physical receiver to stretch the field. I was hoping they would get either Wallace, Boldin or Percy Harvin but if they can't pay Welker they are not gonna pay anyone.

 

To top it off they have now lost Welker and might lose likes of Talib and Edelman. With Gronkowski an injury waiting to happen I think Brady will retire with 3 rings.

Mike26
Mike26

Good for Welker!  It's about time he got credit for all the success that those prima donnas in Boston were always taking from him.

Donald11
Donald11

Bet Brady's glad he reworked his contract now.

mjpt
mjpt

As tough as this is, Welker should have expected this. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and negotiated as such. Same strategy for two different set ups was probably erroneous. Sentimentality and Belichick in the same sentence?????? This still works for both production wise, but re Patriots, when did they ever pay over the odds for personnel that were ALREADY in their system- unless it was Brady (he is the centre of operations). Welker is a product of the system and this is where Belichick lives so I think both sides got what they wanted but Wes gave up a little more as he leaves Boston where he is an Icon.

PWINGS
PWINGS

Four observations:

1) Manning is licking his chops to have another "gym rat" to throw to. Welker will be in Denver within a week.

2) Brady has to be livid.

3) Edelman and his agent just raised their asking price in their negotiations with Belicheck.

4) Brandon Stokely has either already retired or is seriously looking over his shoulder.

craig.w.bryant
craig.w.bryant

The Ravens have lost Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Anquan Boldin, they are hardly the team that won the Super Bowl 6 weeks ago. They will make the playoffs next year, but after their foolish deal with Flacco they won't be able to keep the rest of the team stocked for several years. Lack of receiving wasn't the problem in Denver this year, and Welker doesn't really help take advantage of Manning's ability to air out the deep ball, other than supposedly weakening the Patriots this deal doesn't do much to make the Broncos better. Welker's success in NE was a product of the system there, guarantee you Bellichick will find someone else to fill that hole.

gonats2995
gonats2995

2 Years 12 million as in 6 million and a year and the Pats didn't match. That is ridiculous. They better sign some decent guys to make it more plausible that they didn't have the cap room to match. 

Thomas Baker
Thomas Baker

Tom Brady is a great QB, but Belichek and the NE Pats organization sucks.

steven19
steven19

ahhh i'll be attacked by grammer police on that last post.

 

mjpt
mjpt

 @childress.stephen1 they certainly had the perfect set up with Randy Moss and a slot receiver for short yard gain. They seem to have gone heavy on this two TE set with WR to cover the loss of Moss.  They were one miracle catch away from SB victory. However they completely overhauled their thinking. They have never replaced that deep threat. You correctly point out that defenders have been "boxing in" and absolutely killing all in the middle. Pollard has effectively taken three heads on his own!! If that was not a sign for a deep threat to keep safeties at home in the backfield, then I am not sure what the NE thinking is. Belichick seems to be going on his theoretical economist slant in offensive philosophy but remaining the cold hearted pragmatist on fiscal spending. As you point out-this bears no fruit for the post season now as teams have switched on to the NE scheme and caught up...

mjpt
mjpt

 @Michael22 agreed. Welker should have cashed in last time and ignored the franchise tag, but he had 9.5 million reasons not to. NE will say he got his pay day then. Thats it. Tag year was essentially a sample spread for NE to say no thanks on the next negotiating round. Heck, they made that clear when they benched him. He only got back thanks to tight end receiving crisis. Welker will make out though, he has a better cast now to keep doing what he's doing-probably for longer as well as he will not be the focal point, he will be a 3 pronged attack- nice work if you can get it...

mjpt
mjpt

 @CobyPreimesberger great call- Elway is a businessman and he is conducting operations VERY smartly. Cost wise, this makes plenty of sense, scheme wise, even better!! as you point out, 3 receiver keeps everyone at home on defense. Brady has made a career percentage wise on short routes with Welker. Thought NE would go heavy on a stretch WR and keep Welker in the hen house. Looks like they put hernandez in slot, keep the train running and hopefully get a stretch WR-are there any left ?? this might sound ridiculous but it rhymes with candy floss??

mjpt
mjpt

 @bbc agree, as a Patriots fan this feels like they are shutting down operations and concentrating on making money for the kraft group. The old idea of good big men and specialists is back (stretch receiver, shut down CB, killer pass rusher) NE model of multi skilled, mutiple positions starting to wear over a long time. Hernandez will be slot but as you, say-what about everything else?? Only way this works is if Belichick has a bunch of guys that we don't know about in his pipeline.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

 @Mike26 Yeah, especially when Welker was throwing the ball to himself.

Mike26
Mike26

 @Donald11 Brady's a choker nowadays anyway - his magic is long gone.

SportPage
SportPage

 @mjpt 2 years @ 6 mill a year is overpaying? If anything that is hugely underpaying.

 

Broncos stole Welker. You'll see how much of a "product of the system" he is when he has over 100 catches and 1,200 yards again.

kgolay6969
kgolay6969

 @PWINGS good ole bellicheat   they havent won a thing in 10 years remember that  dynasty my butt. good ole bb was 3 and 13 with cleveland  they fired him and he was on the verge of being fired in new england  till brady  this guy is not a great coach! great coaches know about talent  he has no clue. like i said 10 years yup he is a genius!

jryan_33
jryan_33

 @craig.w.bryant

 As a Pats fan, after reading the value of the contract he received I am beyond pissed we didn't match. Second of all, Welker will definitely help Denver on offense. If you watched many Denver games last year, you would have noticed that the deep ball was something Manning never recovered after returning from injury. Statistics indicated that he was throwing deep less than ever before, and he was throwing for less yards per catch. If anything, an intermediate/short distance route runner such as Welker will HELP Manning and his reduced arm strength.

Jacob4
Jacob4

 @craig.w.bryant "Doesn't help Manning's ability to air out the deep ball" Like how Welker didn't help Brady throw the deep ball to Randy Moss? Dude seriously, having Wes Welker in the slot means more one-on-ones for Demariyus Thomas and Eric Decker. Yeah the Broncos passing game won't improve much. (rolls eyes)

PWINGS
PWINGS

 @craig.w.bryant I agree with your assessment of the Ravens situation. They are significantly weakened and will be crippled if they have another injury filled season like 2012.

 

However, I disagree with your comment about Welker being of marginal value in Denver. One of Manning's favorite receivers over the years has been slot receiver Brandon Stokely. Manning will use Welker to great benefit in Denver particularly as a remedy to offset any decreased arm strength due to age and/or his neck surgeries.

 

As for Belicheck replacing Welker, his best option is Julian Edelman who is also an unrestricted free agent. If he goes down the road also, Tom Brady's passing options will be seriously depleted.

KenMoore
KenMoore

I can't believe the Patriots did not match 6 million a yr for 2 years and Welker reportedly called NE and asked if they would match it goes to show they never wanted him back that is like 3.4 million less what he made last year what a bunch of crap

John64
John64

 @Thomas Baker 5 super bowl appearances, 3 Lombardi trophies, 7 AFC championship appearances, 10 division titles, 24 playoff games... all in 12 years. Yeah, the Pats' organization really sucks... smh...  

bbc
bbc

 @mjpt  @Michael22

 Welker got back once Belichick realized Pats weren't good enough without Welker. Edelman did diddly squat in Welker's stead and Pats were 3-3 before they were forced to go back to Welker.

bbc
bbc

 @mjpt  @bbc

 Belichick tried stockpiling all those picks and it didn't get us anywhere. brady wasted some of his best years coz Belichick and Pats front office were too cheap to acquire talent via free agency. Now that "getting better via draft" through bunch of picks didn't work out, I assumed Pats would try to make one last ditch effort to make a winner for Brady's final years but I guess it was too much to ask. I would rather Pats trade away most of their picks and get a few tried and tested players via free agency. Time to win is NOW coz after Brady (read in 3-4 years) we will be back rebuilding anyways.

mjpt
mjpt

 @SportPage don't you think that the Broncos will play same system though? short intermediate routes with Manning's damaged long arm capability. I don't like how this worked out for Welker but I am being the ultimate pragmatist here. Thats how the Patriots think (it brings playoffs-but does it bring superbowls anymore??) My thought is that that Patriots have to innovate now -others have caught them up. I don't think 2 @6 is overpaying but from NE POV, it seems to be. Belichick is an economist by training and nature- he WILL run the numbers and say "lowered production" why pay more? Thats not how I would want it to be-thats just the way it is ...sad really..

craig.w.bryant
craig.w.bryant

@jryan_33 Given the value of the contract and the fact that the Pats didn't match perhaps there is a lot more than meets the eyes here. Obviously the Pats paid Welker significantly more than this last year but now all of a sudden he wasn't worth $3 million per season to the Pats. Perhaps the Pats know something about Welker and how he fits into their plans that the rest of us don't. Given all of that I wouldn't be surprised if Welker falls flat in Denver.

gonats2995
gonats2995

Its awful I'm hoping that they can sign Amendola but I seriously doubt he will be much cheaper. Would also nice to see them resign Talib and bring another corner(Sean Smith maybe) and pass rusher(Freeney). 

mjpt
mjpt

 @bbc  @Michael22 thats all they,re missing on offense -a stretch WR that can keep safeties honest. Have not seen Amendols that much but injury record a red flag. Gronk's record is poor as well. NE paying the price for going all in on this philosophy of 2 TE 2 WR and slot, rather than a 1te/3wr/slot. They bet the bank on Gronk and Hernandez....need a long term sample spread to asses its viability??? I am sure Brady's lens is more time sensitive!!

bbc
bbc

 @mjpt  @Michael22

 I am not sold on Amendola. Every time I saw Rams play, Amendola was out injured. If he's the new Gronk, he won't be much help. I am still waiting for Pats to sign a big physical WR who can stretch the field and upgrade on their DB and pass rusher positions.

mjpt
mjpt

 @bbc  @Michael22 amendola 5 yrs @ 30m. Thats an upgrade on welker dollars wise 6 v 5m. Belichick seems to want to continue 2 TE 2 WR and a slot, he obviously believes in that philosophy. Think he thought same on welker when he benched him. this is getting interesting...

bbc
bbc

But it hasn't helped Pat with their ultimate goal - wnning. Belichick and Pats stockpiled picks and saved a bunch of money but couln't get another ring for nearly 10 years now.

6marK6
6marK6

 @bbc  @mjpt Stockpiling picks saves you tons of money when it comes to filling gaps.

mjpt
mjpt

 @SportPage  @craig.w.bryant as stated-there is a lot more going on here than what is being said- its richard seymour all over again- NE have form for doing this...

SportPage
SportPage

 @craig.w.bryant   Given all of that I wouldn't be surprised if Welker falls flat in Denver.

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I would be shocked if your wild prediction came anywhere near being correct.