Gronk down, Welker next?

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Gronk down, Welker next?

Pop quiz hotshot: Who's more essential to the Patriots offense Rob Gronkowski or Wes Welker?

Whose present and long-term standing with the team is most integral in a) keeping Tom Brady happy b) striking fear in the heart of opponents and c) maybe, just maybe, bringing that elusive fourth Lombardi Trophy to the Patriots Hall of Fame?

Who's more likely to get drunk at a high school house party and declare himself a Golden God before cannon-balling into a crowded swimming pool?

Actually, that last one's not so easy, but the answer is Gronk. The answer to every question is Gronk. As amazing as Welker's been over his five seasons with the Pats, there are few players in the entire league more dominant than Yo Soy Roberto Gronkowski, and before today, his future status as a Patriot was the biggest question looming over the New England cap. What's going to happen when his deal expires? Will they pony up all that cash? Is there anyway they'll let Gronk slip away?

The answer is no. We can say that for sure now, thanks to the news that Gronk and the Pats have agreed to a six-year extension that will keep the half-manhalf-fiesta in Foxboro through 2019. I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see how many touchdowns he and 42-year-old Tom Brady combine for that season. I'm think at least 25. At least.

But scaling it back to the present for a second, it's important to note that with the Patriots No. 1 financial question mark now being replaced by an exclamation point, the team has been granted a decent dose of salary cap clarity.

And now that they can visualize their long term future with Gronk, they'll have an easier time finding solutions to some of their short term problems.

And there's no pressing short term issue than Wes Welker.

Will he be the next extension to fall out of Foxboro? I wouldn't be surprised.

Although, Mr. Kraft might also want to consider signing his new lady friend to whatever kind of deal she wants.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Wes Welker, Sebastian Vollmer join Patriots 19-0 talk

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Wes Welker, Sebastian Vollmer join Patriots 19-0 talk

0:41 - Former Patriots Wes Welker and Sebastian Vollmer join and talk with Tom Curran about the possibility the Patriots can go 19-0 and what retirement has been like.

6:23 - Is there anything the Red Sox could have done to prevent the Yankees from making a trade and did they miss their opportunity? Tom Curran, Michael Holley, Kayce Smith, and DJ Bean break down what this trade does to the rivalry.

11:47 - In this edition of the 2007 Patriots team vs. the 2017 Patriots team, Curran and Mike Giardi compare the wide receivers and tight ends positions of both teams and discuss which has more talent.

17:31 - Evan Drellich joins to talk about Drew Pomeranz pitching well again and getting the win, Dustin Pedroia locked in at the plate, and how the Red Sox proceed in the trade market. 

To Tony Dungy, Tom Brady is No. 6 on list of modern QBs

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To Tony Dungy, Tom Brady is No. 6 on list of modern QBs

Tom Brady is gunning for his sixth Super Bowl title, which makes him the sixth-best quarterback of the modern era, according to ex-Colts coach Tony Dungy.

Huh? 

Dungy was part of a panel assembled by ESPN's Mike Sando to compile a "GOAT Index", i.e., a ranking of the best QBs since 1978.

Why '78? That's when the NFL changed rules to open up the passing game. 

The 10-member panel was made up of ex-head coaches Dungy, Pete Carroll, Mike Holmgren, Ray Rhodes, Wade Phillips, Mike Shanahan, Al Saunders and Norv Turner, along with ex-assistant Howard Mudd and former GM and executive Mike Reinfeldt. 

Nine members listed Brady at No. 1 or 2. Dungy had him sixth, in part because he owed TB12's success to his coach and in part because Brady isn't fleet of foot.

"I don't think Bill Belichick would be Bill Belichick without Tom Brady, and Brady would not have the same success without Belichick and the way they have put that team together," Dungy told Sando. "But the one common thread through 15 years was Brady. When they had him, they won big -- won championships. The quarterback has so much to do with it."

Dungy didn't have Peyton Manning, his QB when he coached the Colts from 2002-08, as No. 1. In fact, Dungy has previously admitted that Brady has had the better career than Manning. 

"The one No. 1 vote Manning received came from a panelist with no ties to him," Sando wrote, which rules out Dungy and Mudd, the ex-Colts offensive line coach. The running ability of John Elway, Steve Young and Aaron Rodgers helped put them in Dungy's top three.

Here's the consensus ranking of the panel:

1. Tom Brady
2. Peyton Manning
3. Joe Montana 
4. John Elway
5. Aaron Rodgers 
T-6. Dan Marino 
T-6. Brett Favre 
8. Steve Young 
9. Drew Brees 
10. Dan Fouts