NFL Free Agency: Wes Welker signs with the Broncos

Posted: 03/13/2013 by levcohen in Football

In the second day of free agency, Wes Welker has shocked the world by signing with the Denver Broncos for a two year, 12 million dollar deal. We knew Welker was going to test the market, but I think most of us assumed he would eventually go back to New England. This is a shocker. The Broncos get an “A” for this signing. They got Welker for an extremely low price, especially based on his production. The major discount probably had something to do with Peyton Manning, although they were luring Welker away from another pretty good QB in Tom Brady. Not only did the Broncos make a good business decision by signing Welker, their team is also going to really benefit. Any team that’s going to play against the Broncos is going to have nightmares, because the Broncos group of wide receivers is terrific. Demarius Thomas, which isn’t yet a big household name, is a true WR1. He’s fast with good hands, he is extremely athletic, and he runs good routes, traits that make him on of the five to eight best receivers in the NFL. Eric Decker, an athletic player with the best hands on the team, would be many teams WR1, and many teams would be happy with him as their WR1. With the Broncos, he is the #2, and possibly the best #2 in the NFL. Wes Welker in the slot as a #3 wide receiver is just insane. Welker is small, he’s white, and he doesn’t look that fast, but he is really very good. He is deceptively quick, runs great routes, and has good hands. Welker is also not afraid of anything or anybody. Peyton Manning has to be feeling giddy right now. His offensive line has been upgraded, he had the next two years of his contract guaranteed (guaranteed money added: a cool 40 million), and now he has three of the best and most reliable guys to throw the ball to.

The New England Patriots, on the other hand, can’t be feeling too happy right now. Tom Brady clearly loved Welker, and while Welker and Bill Belichick had their tense moments, there was clear camaraderie between the two. Welker had some poor stretches (his costly drop against the Giants in the 2012 Super Bowl in particular), but he almost always was their best and most reliable WR. Now the question for NE is: How do they move on from Welker? To me, there are two clear players already on roster who can ease the pain for the Pats. The first is Aaron Hernandez. With Rob Gronkowski down, Hernandez was already starting to break out, with 15 catches and 168 yards in two playoff games. But with the Gronk back, Hernandez still has the skills to become a star. He can take Welker’s role with short routes, and he can take it to another level with his ability to run the football and run deep routes. Hernandez is a special breed of tight end, but he does lack some abilities that Welker has. Hernandez is much more athletic than Welker, but he had some trouble with drops last season and doesn’t run routes like Welker (then again, almost nobody can). The other in-house option is Julian Edelman. For the first few weeks of last season, Edelman was terrific, and it looked as if he was on his way to supplanting Welker as the slot receiver. Then he got hurt, as has happened before, and missed a lot of the season. Edelman is a similar type of player to Welker; he’s small, he is a good short route runner, he is elusive, and broke into the NFL as a punt returner (ala Wes Welker), but he has durability problems that Welker doesn’t have. Welker has missed three games in his eight year career, while Edelman has missed 16 games in four seasons. A 16 game a year player is much, much more valuable than a 12 game a year player. I don’t think the Pats will do anything about their predicament in free agency (Danny Amendola is the only possibility), but they could trade up in the draft for WR Tavon Austin. Austin interestingly compared himself to Welker in draft interviews, and it was a good comparison. He showed much of the elusiveness and route running that Welker has shown. One thing is clear. The Patriots need to find a suitable replacement for Welker, and I’m confident that they can do that, whether it is via draft, free agency, or in house options.

The last two days have been crazy with free agents signing all over the place, so I can’t really get into that now, but I’ll continue to go over any big or shocking moves like the Welker one.

  1. Marinite says:

    Ummm, of what relevance is the fact that Welker is white?

    • 5toolstar says:

      Take a look at all the top wide receivers in the NFL (Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Dez Bryant, Roddy White, Julio Jones, Percy Harvin, etc.) All of them are African-American, and are big, fast and athletic. Welker has a little bit of those things, but he really has no speed or athleticism compared to the Bryant’s and White’s of the world.

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