- He'll be 32 on May 1st. The Pats don't need to look any further than the last great slot WR to draw his checks in Foxboro. Troy Brown caught 97 passes as a 31 yr old in 2002. In 2003, his receptions dropped to 40. For the remainder of his career, Brown only broke 40 receptions once, in 2006. Hall of famer Steve Largent caught 70 passes at age 32, but he dropped from there to 58, 39, and 28 receptions before retiring. Isaac Bruce averaged 49.4 receptions for his final 5 years, while averaging 64 over his 16 year career. Old friend Stanley Morgan never caught more than 40 after age 32. Production drops off on just about all the good/great receivers sometime between 32-34 years old. The gamble is... when do you cut ties? Which brings us to the next point.
- Belichick always cuts guys loose while there's still tire on the tread. Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour and Drew Bledsoe were all shown the door with a few more bullets in the clip. Hoodie's modus operandi has always been to let the older guys finish out their careers elsewhere rather than be overpaid vets in Foxboro.
- Money. Welker is coming off his franchise tag contract, where he was paid $9.5m for this season. That number goes up to $11.4 next season if NE opts for that route again. They won't. That money is better earmarked elsewhere, which segues to...
- Defense wins championships. Look at the two combatants in this year's Super Bowl. San Francisco and Baltimore are the two hardest hitting defenses in the playoffs. With the occasional blip of the radar, (Green Bay, New Orleans, Indy) the winning Super Bowl team generally has a defense that is up to the task of stopping the best offenses. New England's defense in 2012 is better than the 2011 squad that was lucky enough to get to the Super Bowl. If not for Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff, Baltimore would have represented the AFC in the Super Bowl last year. For next season, the team needs to sign Aquib Talib, or his equivalent, find a hard hitting, Bernard Pollard type for strong safety, and get Chandler Jones some help on the pass rush. (hello, Armond Armstead) With these additions, the defense is likely ready to compete at a championship level.
- The position has evolved. Look at the receivers across the league. There are less undersized guys like Welker, who is listed at 5'9". Marques Colston is 6'4", Torrey Smith 6'1", Anquan Boldin 6'1", Larry Fitzgerald is 6'3", Julio Jones checks in at 6'3", and Calvin Johnson is a whopping 6'5". They are the standard now, big, athletic physical guys that can go up and get the ball and take the punishment from DB's. New England will likely shift Aaron Hernandez to the slot, going with Gronk, Jake Ballard and TBA at TE, with a suddenly contact averse Brandon Lloyd and TBA outside the numbers.
No one is saying Wes Welker isn't good. He is. But his time has come to an end in Foxboro. If the theory is wrong, he'll continue to be productive at his next stop, and he'll end up in Canton. If the theory is right, New England is the odds on favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl at the Meadowlands next February.
Wouldn't that just frost the Jets.