The New England Patriots were unable to reach a long term agreement with Wes Welker during the off-season. Instead, Welker used the franchise tag to stay with the team in 2012. The Patriots could franchise tag their prolific pass-catcher again next off-season. But assuming they don't, where could he land? Here are five possibilities:
1. Miami Dolphins
– Miami is the most likely landing spot for Welker. Welker started his career in Miami. Though he primarily played special teams while there. Miami has been making it a habit of signing players that most other teams consider over the hill (ie. Ricky Williams, Chad Ochocinco, Reggie Bush, seemingly every back-up quarterback around the league). If Welker ends up being on the market you can bet Miami is going to make a serious play for him.
2. New England Patriots
– I know the Patriots have never been known for being sentimental, but they are strategic. If Welker has a big year in 2012, I find it very hard to believe they’ll just let him walk away. I know Tom Brady has showed great faith for Welker’s abilities. I’m assuming they’ll let his franchise tag play out this year, and they’ll get two year deal done next offseason.
3. Dallas Cowboys
– Having Wes Welker on the free market would be like a trip to the candy store for Jerry Jones. He’ll give Welker anything he wants to come wear 83 in the silver and blue. I know the Cowboys are stacked at this position; but when has that stopped Jones from doing something indulgent? Tony Romo would certainly love to have a check down progression like this: Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Wes Welker. Don’t you think?
4. Kansas City Chiefs
– This team is kind of my dark horse in the race. But recently they’ve been tied to the Patriots. The hired Todd Haley, a former Patriots coach, then fired him. They signed Matt Cassel to a mega-deal after his one great season in New England. Romeo Crennel used to be a Patriots coach. If they have a chance to make a play for him, I imagine they will. I bet Matt Cassel would make a big push for it. He would love the help of an old teammate. I know they have their own thing going on with Dwayne Bowe. Look at it this way, signing Bowe and Welker is going to be cheaper, in the short run, than getting rid of the $60 million contract of Cassel.
5. New York Jets
– This would be crazy, but not all that unlikely. The Jets have been making big free agent signings, at wide receiver, throughout the Rex Ryan era. They picked up Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress. And they don’t mind spicing things up, check into acquiring Tim Tebow. Plus, you know Ryan is aching to get his hands on someone who’s been as involved in Bill Belichick’s system as Welker has been.
One more team that is going to be interesting to watch, will be the San Diego Chargers. They have been struggling with their receiving core for the last couple of seasons. Welker was a Charger in his rookie season, but was cut during training camp and signed by Miami. Phillip Rivers could use a utility receiver like Welker. And people in the organization have been quoted as saying, “letting Welker go was a huge mistake.” I’m just throwing this one out there.