Welker steps into uncertain future as a free agent

Welker steps into uncertain future as a free agent
March 12, 2013, 6:45 pm
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Wes Welker's in uncharted territory. For the first time in his career, he's an unrestricted free agent.

Welker and the Patriots didn't reach accord on a new deal prior to 4 p.m. Tuesday. Now a player who caught 672 balls the last six seasons and has established himself as arguably the best inside receiver in NFL history gets to find out what that honor gets him.

The estimation of league sources I've spoken to over the last month is that it may not be what he or his agents expect.

As brilliant as Welker's been in New England, his age (32 in May), size, lack of downfield speed and the perception he'll need a certain type of offense and quarterback to tap his skills are all working against him.

It's often said of free agency, though, "It only takes one team . . . "

In the opening hours of free agency, that team hasn't emerged.

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, who's done a terrific job breaking news this offseason, was asked two hours after free agency opened what he had on Welker. Rap's reply? "Nothing. Seriously, I got nothing."

Rapoport tweeted earlier Tuesday that a source told him the Welker camp was waiting on its first contract offer. Someone is overstating things, a source told me Tuesday night. The team has made real progress on getting Welker a new deal after franchising him in 2012.

But the Patriots don't much deserve to have Welker back without having to sweat a little. He's been left to twist in the wind a little bit over the last few years, so the fact that his agents, David Dunn and Brian Murphy, made it known last week that Welker wouldn't give the Pats a deal shouldn't be a surprise.

If Welker's going anywhere, you'd anticipate that happening in the first five days of free agency. After that the money dries up, teams have declared their plans by the moves they've made, and the likelihood of Welker coming back to New England rises.

Even if there are no heavy suitors, though, it may be a while before Welker re-commits to the Patriots. And that's if there's a position open for him to commit to. The presence of Danny Amendola on the market gives New England a reasonable Welker facsimile who's younger, and probably would work for less.

Wes Welker's in a spot he's never been. And there's a good chance he's not going to like it.