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How Should Patriots Handle Wes Welker’s Future?

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Matthew Geagan
Matthew Geagan
CBSBoston.com

Wes Welker has been everything the New England Patriots have asked him to be and more.

For the last six seasons, he’s been Tom Brady’s favorite and most reliable target. When the Patriots need 8 yards, he gets them 10. When opposing defenses give him the smallest amount of room to work with, he makes them pay by jetting down the field an extra 15 yards.

The man came back from a brutal knee injury at the end of the 2009 season faster than humanly possible, leading many to believe he’s a robot.

But even robots get a little old and rusty, and tend to be out of date within a few years. And as a 32-year-old slot receiver next year, Welker will soon be that obsolete Betacam your father still has tucked away in the basement for no apparent reason.

And for that reason, the Patriots will franchise Welker once again this offseason and hope they get another year of amazing production out of him.

That’s not to say Welker won’t continue to produce for the next two or three years. If anyone can do it, it’s Welker.

But if there is anything we’ve learned from the Patriots, you don’t get paid now for past performance.

The right thing to do would be to reward Welker for all his hard work with a nice three-year contract. It would give him security for the near future and the (likely) payday he deserves. His numbers speak for themselves, and he gives 100 percent on every play. There are very few who show up on Sunday ready like Welker does week in and week out.

But the Patriots don’t operate like that. So don’t be surprised when they slap Welker with the franchise tag again, making it his decision to play or sit out for an extension.

It really isn’t the way things should end with one of the greatest receivers to ever don a Patriots uniform, but don’t be surprised if that’s how it all pans out.

Michael Hurley
Michael Hurley
CBSBoston.com

Call me stupid, foolish, naïve, idiotic or anything else you want to call me, but I really do believe Wes Welker and the Patriots will come to an agreement on a multi-year contract after this season.

I know that last summer, things didn't go so swimmingly, with Welker tweeting his "leap of faith" message and the Patriots seemingly unwilling to budge on anything. Then, of course, the Patriots locked up Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to long-term deals, seemingly setting up the final year of Welker in New England.

But I just don't see Welker leaving at the end of the year.

For one, he's still the best, most reliable option the Patriots have. He quickly made phase-out conspirators look like fools, as he's now on pace for 123 receptions for more than 1,400 yards, and he's proven to be able to stay healthy, which is something many of his teammates can't say.

Now, such a season could very well net Welker a hefty contract elsewhere … but I don't think he'll leave the Patriots for just a few extra bucks.

Welker will be 32 in the offseason, and realistically, no team is going to go absolutely crazy to pay a receiver top money as he enters his mid-30s. Secondly, if one team is willing to offer big money over three or four years, will that team be providing Welker the opportunity to be on a competitive team and win a Super Bowl? Look at the highest-paid wide receivers in the league: Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe … they're all great players, but they're all on bad teams. Does Welker really want to sacrifice being Tom Brady's right-hand man on a team that wins 12-14 games every year just to make a few extra bucks? I really do question that.

I believe Welker is unlike most NFL players and specifically wide receivers. He's not a diva, he's not overly ego-driven to the point where it would be detrimental to the team, and he often makes decisions that benefit the team rather than himself (rushing back from his torn knee, playing through injuries, signing franchise tender, etc.).

I think the Patriots and Welker figure out a two- or three-year deal worth about $5.5 million per season. It may seem like a lot for the Patriots, and it may seem like too little for Welker, but the 2012 season has shown everyone just how important each side is to the other.

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