The news surfaced Monday reporting that the New England Patriots are going to decline using the franchise tag on pending free agent Wes Welker and even though the shifty slot receiver has been called the heart and soul of the team, the decision not to franchise him is the right one.
The Patriots slapped the tag on Welker last offseason and he played the 2012 NFL season under it and earned a hefty $9.5 million. Yet, if the team were to place the tag on Welker again this offseason, the price tag would be over $11 million, which is a lot for a slot receiver in his 30’s.
Despite the uncertainty of his contract situation, Welker had another outstanding season in New England, hauling in 118 receptions for 1,354 and six touchdowns. But despite this tremendous production, the Patriots have to let the market for Welker play out.
Some have opined that because the Patriots are not placing the tag on Welker, he will not be back in New England for the 2013 season. Yet, just because the team decides not to use the tag, doesn’t mean that it will end its pursuit of a long-term contract with the former Texas Tech star.
The difficult thing in all this for New England is determining proper market value for Welker. It is safe to assume that he is more valuable in New England than anywhere else, but how much is he a product of a brillant offensive system and playing with one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history?
Would Welker even come close to putting up the same kind of numbers in a different offense with a different quarterback. The answer is probably no. So if Welker would not be as productive in another uniform, why should the Patriots break the bank to keep him?
Certainly the team will want to keep him in the fold, but it has to be at the right price. Welker is a damn-good receiver but he is no Calvin Johnson or Brandon Marshall. He is not Julio Jones, Roddy White, A.J. Green or Andre Johnson either. He is a talented player with a particular set of skills that fit perfectly with what the Patriots and Tom Brady like to do, which is why if Welker is brought back, it needs to be at a reasonable price because I’m just not sure you break the bank for a 32-year old slot receiver.