Patriots

Patriots

The market for Wes Welker this offseason has been, in a word, modest.

Welker, who turns 34 on May 1, is coming off his least productive season since 2005 when he was still trying to carve a niche in the league.  Welker had 49 catches for 464 yards and two touchdowns in 2014, his second season with the Broncos.

Tuesday, a blip of interest was found. The Miami Dolphins, the team that Welker spent the early part of his career with, brought Welker in for a visit, according to Miami Herald reporter Armando Salguero.

The only other ping this offseason was Salguero speculating a month ago that Houston might be reaching out, the connection being Texans head coach Bill O’Brien who was offensive coordinator during the latter part of Welker’s New England stint.

Nothing’s come of that so far. And it’s worth wondering if anything will come together for Welker. His two seasons in Denver were marred by concussions and a diminishing role in the offense. In December, a well-done piece in ESPN took stock of Welker’s NFL future in light of his concussion history.

He is, to be blunt, damaged goods.

And it’s not like the league was banging down Welker’s door prior to his hard-luck Broncos run. In March 2013, Welker -  on his agent’s advice - hit the market believing he could command more than the Patriots were willing to give him. That wasn’t the case. Soon Welker found himself having to sell Broncos GM John Elway on signing him. The Broncos were so ambivalent about Welker, they let him call the Patriots to see if they’d match the deal, but by then they’d already replaced Welker with Danny Amendola.

Why was there such tepid interest for Welker? His size and age were a factor. So was fact that the Patriots offense highlights the slot more than other systems. Why would any team that isn’t slot-centric, and pushes a vertical passing game be interested in paying $9M (the Welker camp’s asking price) on a player that didn’t fit their mold?

Now, it will be even harder to find work. Could Welker help a team? Absolutely. He’s a technician. One of the best underneath route-runners in NFL history. He’d be a major asset to any team as a mentor. But this isn’t the time of year in which teams are rounding out their rosters with accessory-type players and that’s what Welker will be now, even if he could do more if given the chance.

But if we’re being realistic, Welker having another season with more than 50 catches would be an upset.

Is he a Hall of Fame-level performer? It will be close but I’d say yes. He had 112, 111, 123, 86, 122 and 118 catches from 2007 to 2012. In his first season with Denver he had 73 catches and 10 TDs.  He played in three Super Bowls, was on the only 16-0 team in NFL history. He was a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro and contributed on special teams.

Voters will have to understand and accept that Welker really didn’t play “wide” receiver and shouldn’t be compared to an outside guy. The position he played was slot receiver. And he played it better for longer than anyone.