From the vaults here on January 26, 2011:
Here's the deal folks: You don't want to sign Wes Welker to a long term deal after next season. He is not a franchise receiver. He's a slot receiver and returner who has gotten the hell knocked out of him in his career. He's what I call a "TMU", (True Mileage Unknown). Special teams is a vicious life, and I am willing to bet it's taken years off his career.
Also, I look at a similar receiver in terms of how he played (on offense), Wayne Chrebet of the New York Jets. Yes, I know, his career was cut short by concussions, but he played a similar role to Welker during his playing days (offensively), and Chrebet was a returner for only two seasons of his career, 1996 and 1997. From 1995 to 2002 (including the 1997 season when Chrebet only started one game) Chrebet played in 121 reg season games and had 437 catches. Since Welker started playing offense in 2005 w/ Miami, he's played in 92 regular season games with 528 catches, and was a primary returner from 2004-2009 (he had 5 returns in 2010). He's also coming off of an ACL injury, and it's not a stretch to say it affected his season and might have hurt his career in general. The majority of the best years of his career are in all likelihood behind him (save for a big contract year in 2011).
Folks, do you REALLY want a 31 year-old slot receiver with a surgically repaired knee tied up long-term? Really? I know most of you are in love with the guy, and I understand that, but look at the receiving corps of the two (recent) Super Bowl participants now: Donald Driver can still get deep, which has never been a strong suit for Welker, and Hines Ward is signed through 2013 (PS his reception total dropped this year from 95 last year to 59 this year). Do you see any other wide-outs on the opposite end of 30?
Welker responded with statistically his best season (dare I say "contract year"). While the Chrebet comparison is good, here's another one that hits even closer to home: Troy Brown.
In Troy Brown's ninth season (just like Welker in his eighth), Brown had his best statistical year ever: 101 catches, 1199 yards, 5 tds and a Super Bowl win. Here are his stats from the first 9 years:
Welker's total numbers are better (which reflects a different offense and different era), but both players took basically the same career track in their first 124 receptions: Two years of primarily special teams, then special teams + receiving, then primarily receiving (and matching the exact same number of catches with 124.
Greg Bedard in the Boston Globe today suggested: "Basically, what would be fair for Welker is something in the ballpark of $40 million over four years with $22 million guaranteed."
The question of course is simple: is Welker from here on out worth $22 million guaranteed?
Again, we look at Troy Brown after his pinnacle year, 2001. From 2002 to 2007:
The drops in both yards, catches and games played are significant from 2002 on. Could Welker have a better year next year? Of course he could. History tells us, however, that the decline is on the horizon. Is it worth $22 million guaranteed when you already have Welker-lite in Julian Edelman on the roster, and possibly have Welker 2.0 in Danny Amendola on the way? Is Welker the reason the offense is so efficient, or is the offense the reason Welker has such great numbers? Welker is due $9.4 million this year if he signs the franchise tender. In the era of salary cap football, it's tough to gamble on a slot receiver with high miles. You don't pay the baker for the wedding cakes he already made, you pay him for the one he is making for you. How many more cakes does Welker have left in the oven?