By: Russ Goldman
Let me start by saying that I appreciate everything that wide receiver Wes Welker has done in his time with the Patriots. However, there are a few reasons why I feel the Patriots might be better off moving forward without Welker.
First, the Patriots defense is still a few players away from being a unit that could be considered a strength, and not a weakness. Instead of allocating money that would go to Welker, I would put that money towards the defense.
The Patriots desperately need a cornerback that they can count on to do his job, and feel confident that they can play all different types of coverage. Whether they feel it is Aqib Talib, or someone else, the Patriots should try to find this player in the off-season. The Patriots might also need another cornerback, if the legal situation with Alfonzo Dennard does not make him available this season.
Also, the Patriots need a defensive tackle to go along with Vince Wilfork that can push the pocket on passing downs. Kyle Love is a good player against the run, but cannot get after the quarterback.
The Patriots have shown the ability to get to the Super Bowl lately, but to win it the defense should be the place that needs to be upgraded. This unit is not far off from being a real good defense so with a few additions, the Patriots could be making that giant leap towards that fourth Lombardi Trophy.
Second, the Patriots offense has become too dependent on Welker, and might be a reason you see issues with scoring in the Playoffs. I know many fans like statistics so I am going to give you a shocking one.
The last Super Bowl Champion to have a receiver with over 100 receptions in the regular season was the 2001 New England Patriots with Troy Brown. All of the Super Bowl champions after that team had receivers with less than 100 receptions.
The 2003 New England Patriots were led in receptions by Deion Branch with 57, and the 2004 Patriots were led by David Givens with 56 receptions. The Patriots won two Super Bowls without a receiver with 100 receptions.
There is no correlation between having a receiver with 100 receptions and Super Bowl wins, since Brown was the last to do it in 2001. I feel this is about having a balanced offense, and not being focused on one player.
Welker has had at least 100 receptions in every season with the Patriots except in 2010 when he had 86 receptions. I think it is time for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to go away from being dependent on Welker, and go back to finding the open receiver which he did when he was winning Super Bowls.
Now, I do believe the offense can function without Welker, but it will take time for it to adapt. You could move Aaron Hernandez to the slot, but you can also have him line up in several positions.
I think the Patriots would need to sign another receiver, and I would start with trying to bring back Julian Edelman. Now, he is not the replacement for Welker, but he would be a piece to the puzzle. I would also draft a wide receiver.
Jake Ballard who the Patriots signed last year could take the current role that Hernandez has at tight end. In his one season with the Giants, he had 38 receptions and 604 yards.
My co-host of Patriots Fourth And Two, Steve Balestrieri wrote an article on Pats Pub which includes an explanation on how the offense could work without Welker . Please feel free to read this post.
On top of that I think running back Shane Vereen could be a weapon in the passing game. You could use him in the screen game, but he was already used last season at times as a wide-out to establish mismatches with linebackers.
I also can see the running game being even more a part of the Patriots offense as it really showed serious growth last season. The idea is to adapt and become a truly balanced offense.
The Patriots were able to change after Randy Moss left, and it took time, but they were better off for it. It is time to adapt once again and let Welker go.