The Patriots and Wes Welker are still far apart, but is this a blessing in disguise?
That's why many people are surprised that it looks like the Patriots are letting him peddle his wares in free agency. The Patriots and Welker are pretty far apart on a new deal, and it looks like nothing will get done anytime soon between them, making it increasingly likely that Welker could be playing elsewhere for the first time since 2006.
It really shouldn't be surprising, though. The Patriots have parted ways with many very good players when they thought they were asking for too much money. It's been referred to as "The Patriot Way."
Ty Law, Asante Samuel, and Curtis Martin were all great players for the Patriots, and all were allowed to walk when the Patriots felt like they were asking for too much money. Why should Welker really be any different?
Also, it's worth noting that there are certainly other options.
Victor Cruz is available for a first round draft pick, basically. He is a restricted first round pick, but would cost the Patriots a first round draft pick if they signed him. Also, the Giants would have the opportunity to match the offer.
With the financial flexibility that the Patriots have right now and the uncertainty of the draft, would it hurt to give up a first rounder for a guy like Cruz, who has already established himself as the best slot WR in the NFL (yes, better than Welker). He's also 5 years younger than Welker, and could be acquired for cheaper than Welker.
At the very least, making Cruz an offer could force up the price that the Giants would have to pay, if they were to match the offer.
Another option would be finding someone in the draft. Personally, I believe West Virginia WR Tavon Austin would be a tremendous replacement for Welker, and he could be available in the middle of the 1st round. The Patriots might have to trade up to get him, but he would be a cheaper and potentially more talented version of Welker.
Of course, there are other options out there. Danny Amendola is one, and there are other WRs that will be available through the draft.
The Patriots just cleared up a bunch of money by restructuring Tom Brady's contract. It would be pointless to waste it by overpaying a slot WR in his 30s, and it looks like they have no interest in doing so.