BOSTON (CBS) – Before the dust could even setting from their 28-13 loss to the Ravens in the AFC Championship game, “what’s next” was already being asked of the New England Patriots.
That question is echoing loudest when it comes to receiver Wes Welker, who is set to become a free agent. Welker played the 2012 season under the franchise tag, with the two sides unable to come to an agreement on an extension prior to the season.
So, what’s next with Wes? Welker was peppered with questions about his future following the loss, but his mind was not on the future — just the present.
“I’m not sure. I’m not worried about that right now,” he said on reporters first go-around with the question.
When asked how difficult this off-season will be with the uncertainty surrounding his situation, Welker’s answer was still the same.
“I’m really not worried about it at all. It’s a tough loss and I’m just trying to get over it at the moment,” he said.
Reporters made a third attempt, but were met with equal resistance from Welker.
“Like I said, I’m not worried about any of it,” he replied.
Welker had a solid performance against the Ravens, hauling in eight catches for a team-high 117 yards and New England’s only touchdown of the evening. But he let a third-down pass drop in early in the third quarter after the Patriots stopped Baltimore’s initial drive, a drop that would have kept a New England drive alive. Instead, the Ravens took over and scored a touchdown to take a 14-13 lead, and they never looked back.
“Just a missed opportunity,” Welker said of the drop after the game.
So again, what is next for Welker? The Patriots could slap him with the franchise tag once again, though it would cost them $11.5 million towards the 2013 salary cap. They could work out an extension, but Welker will be 32-years-old when next season gets underway, and the Pats likely won’t be in the mood to spend top-dollar on an aging receive that takes a beating nearly every game.
But no one bounces back from the viscous hits he takes like Welker, and he consistently puts up numbers when Tom Brady throws him the ball. He caught 118 passes during the regular season for 1,354 yards, his fifth season with 110+ catches in six years with New England.
But in the end, it will depend on what the Patriots think Welker is worth, and for how long. The Patriots were reluctant to give him a multi-year deal prior to this season, and Welker might have to settle for a two-year deal in order to stay in a Patriots uniform. Things don’t always end pleasantly when it comes to Patriots’ free agents, and time will tell if Welker is put into that group.
Welker may not have been thinking about his future after the game, but it’s something he’ll be thinking about very soon.