One of the Patriots' big names heading into the final year of his contract in 2011 is wide receiver Wes Welker. As you know, Welker made a quick recovery off a torn ACL this season, and finished the year with 86 receptions, 848 yards, and seven touchdowns.
While it was nice to see Welker's touchdown numbers up, there isn't much of a debate that he simply wasn't the same player that he was in his first three years in New England. That quickness and dangerous ability after the catch wasn't quite the same, and he led the NFL in on-target drops. That's not to say he wasn't good, he just didn't have a season that lived up to his usual standards.
Because of this, even Welker, who is certainly deserving of a long-term extension (deserving a contact is far from meaning he will get one), doesn't believe he deserves a new contract at this point. He recently told the Boston Herald,"I think everybody wants a new deal, but I wouldn't say anything I did this past year would warrant one or anything like that."
He continued, "For me, I feel like it was a disappointing year. I feel like I didn't play my best ball. Having that kind of year definitely drives me. It makes me want to be better than I was. You go into the offseason thinking about what you can do to get better, and there's plenty of things I can do to have a better year."
Certainly, it's refreshing to see a player be so honest about his own performance. Nonetheless, I fully expect Wes Welker to have a turn-around year in 2011. He'll be in his second year removed from the torn ACL and is his first full year without Randy Moss helping take the top of the defense, not to mention his confidence in his knee will certainly be up.
The only issue I see with Wes Welker and an extension is the regular beating he takes on the football field. To me, I see Welker as a running back. Consider this: Welker gets a lot more touches than the average receiver (on average 110+ catches per season), meaning that he takes a lot more hits. That's not even taking into account the ferocity and put-it-all-out-there attitude Welker plays with. If you add up all of the beatings Welker has taken, I wouldn't be surprised if his career trajectory looked a little bit more like a running back. Heading into 2012, Welker will be 31 years old. If he signs a four or five year deal, what kind of return would the Patriots get from a 34 or 35 year old Welker? Just something to think about and debate.