43 of 67 snaps played, 14 yards, 5 targets, 3 receptions. These are the numbers Wes put up yesterday. You can look at them in two different ways.
The first way is that the Patriots were forcibly integrating Brandon Lloyd into the offense. Lloyd wears a familiar number (not in a good way) and had a pretty dull preseason considering the hype surrounding his performance in training camp, so it was important to immediately get balls thrown Brandon's direction.
The second way is to look at it as a Wes Welker litmus test by Bill Belichick.
Welker lost time to Julian Edelman, who played a respectable 23 offensive snaps yesterday, about half of Welker's. Julian caught 1 ball for 7 yards, and had a few nice punt returns- though he surprisingly did not register a snap on defense.
Welker has historically been a fantastic receiver for us- catching more than 500 passes in five years is no small accomplishment. But is the presence of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, their production in the offense, the fact they were given long term contracts, and the areas in which they contribute to the Patriots signal the end of Wes Welker's value?
Maybe we're getting too far ahead of ourselves? After all, Brady and Welker are great friends, right? Watching their rapport and chemistry, and understanding their background- knowing they vacation together- there is no WAY Bill would trade away all of that. Except, does anyone remember Deion Branch? The original Welker, except infinitely MORE valuable because of his contributions to actual Super Bowl victories?
Deion was a casualty of the Patriots' businessman approach to roster management. Ty Law, Branch, Richard Seymour- these players were all cornerstone players in the New England organization.
The funny thing is, Deion was back for a while.
And Deion showed up on every one of everyone's roster predictions.
And Deion showed up in camp.
And Deion doesn't require the franchise tag money.
And Deion is currently a free agent.
Do we see where I'm going with this?
Is Welker valuable enough to keep franchised? What is his trade value, if the Patriots KNOW they won't keep him next year? A second round pick?
Or would they want to save money, and be willing to trade Wes because his perceived value does not match what his actual value is to the offense?
Lets examine the stats- according to Pro Football Focus, Welker was second in the league in drops over the three year period from 2009 to 2011. Although he only had 32 in 363 catchable balls thrown, that's still a high percentage relative to another familiar face, at 15th in lowest number of drops- 10 of 165 catchable passes- the original #83, Deion Branch.
I'm not trying to start anything, but again- value. What is Welker's value to the offense?
Welker's been to 2 Super Bowls in his five years, but has nothing to show for it. Not that any of the blame is on him, but would Lloyd have made "the catch?" Could Deion and Edelman replace him for snaps, for much less of a cost?
Maybe I'm taking too much away from just one game. Would the Patriots let these things play out, and wait a few games before trading Wes away?
Or, like Randy Moss and Seymour, will they make the surprising move early- because they want to eliminate a possible distraction, and because they want to maximize trade value. What would happen is Wes caught 9 balls in the next three games, failed to register a touchdown, and had less than 100 yards. Will the story be that his skills declined? What's his value then?
All of this is probably just a conspiracy, but I can't help but think of that last miss in the Super Bowl. Was that a 10 million dollar play?