BOSTON (CBS) – As we look back on the year that was and reflect on the biggest Boston sports stories of 2013, two of the top Patriots-related items took place outside the field of play: Aaron Hernandez’s arrest and Wes Welker signing with the Broncos.

READ: Top Boston Sports Stories Of 2013

But in terms of how it relates to on the field, the Patriots offense is sorely missing one and not the other.

Andy Gresh and Scott Zolak spent some time discussing the absences of Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker, and while #81 had the chance to be the most unique player in the NFL, #83 was found to be easily replaceable.

On Hernandez, Zo said the Patriots were still in the process of developing him and that he barely scratched the surface of his potential. Gresh made an interesting comparison to a past player of yesteryear.

“What Kordell Stewart was to the quarterback position at one point in time, I think Aaron Hernandez had a chance to be the trailblazer of a different kind of guy at the tight end position. Ten years from now – if he kept his nose clean – there would have been personnel guys saying ‘I need to find an Aaron Hernandez'” Gresh said on Thursday.

“He really could have had that big an impact on the game, and he threw it away.”

We saw the impact – although brief – that Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski had on the Patriots offense while paired together since their draft day in 2010. Fans were robbed of the chance to see the full scope of their capabilities due to injuries and a murder charge.

Zolak can’t help but wonder what if?

“They may have had the best tight end combo that we’ve ever seen if they stayed together the next four years, just based on the ridiculous production you would have had if both guys were healthy.”

Listen below for the full Hernandez discussion:

This segued into a separate discussion later in the show about slot receiver Wes Welker.

Welker was having a very Welker-like season out in Denver with Peyton Manning throwing him passes until a lingering concussion began to slow him down in Week 11.

The majority of Patriots fans were outraged when the team refused to go the extra mile to sign Wes, but would the Patriots be any better than they are now with him on the roster?

Gresh doesn’t believe so.

“I don’t think if he were here we would look at this offense any differently. If Welker was here they’d be in the exact same spot,” said Gresh.

Zo fired back in disagreement, pointing to Tom Brady’s early season struggles and his belief that Welker would have made things easier for TB12 in those first five games. Ultimately though, Zo agreed that their record wouldn’t be any better.

“For $4 million less the Patriots are going to end up with better numbers from [Julian] Edelman than Welker for a lot less money. Case closed – it’s over. They got it right. The 100-catch years for Welker are gone,” Andy Gresh concluded.

Listen below for the full Welker discussion:


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