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Welker's smart to avoid holdout, now Patriots should reward him


Welker has been a major producer, and has maintained that in the postseason. (Getty Images)  
Welker has been a major producer, and has maintained that in the postseason. (Getty Images)  

Wes Welker is a fantastic football player and his production over the past few seasons is comparable to anyone in the NFL.

Granted he's at the other end of Tom Brady's arm, but Welker gets the job done.

He just signed his franchise tender, which means he will be on time for everything going forward and is guaranteed $9.5 million in 2012. Some would say he's underpaid for what he has done and what he should do, but did he really have a choice but to sign the tender? His best chance for a deal may be to be in the facility, not sitting home where he could get hurt training and then lose the whole $9.5 million.

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In the past three years he has played in 39 regular-season games and he averaged 12 targets a game. He averaged eight receptions a game and he only dropped 1 pass every 19 times Brady threw it to him.

Here are the drop rates and touchdowns over the past three seasons for some of the more notable receivers. Wes is targeted third most behind Roddy White and Larry Fitzgerald, which means his workload and drop ratio are very competitive with the best in the game.

Note his touchdowns over the past three years are equal to or better than Reggie Wayne, Anquan Boldin, Andre Johnson, Pierre Garcon, Santonio Holmes and Brandon Marshall, which dispels the idea that he is a possession receiver just moving the chains.

Over the past 39 games, Welker has also averaged 90 yards a game receiving and seven touchdowns a season. He may not be in the class of Fitzgerald, Greg Jennings and Calvin Johnson because of production, age and size but he should be able to make a case vs. Holmes, Marshall, Garcon, and Vincent Jackson.

By signing the tender, Welker is guaranteed his $9.5 million franchise salary this year and if the Patriots don't negotiate a long-term deal and franchise tag him again next year, he will receive $11.4 million in 2013. Of course, that is speculation and he could be injured this year and never receive that tender. Welker signed his tender while many other franchise-tagged players refuse to at this time because he knows the Patriots are always built to walk away from a player. Keep in mind they signed Brandon Lloyd, Anthony Gonzalez, Donte' Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney in the offseason and still have Deion Branch, Chad Ochocinco and Julian Edelman on the roster.

The problem the Patriots face is the deals Holmes, Garcon, Marshall and Jackson did recently. Jackson's $55.5 million deal has $26 million guaranteed, all in the first two years. Marshall did a $47.5 million deal with $24 million guaranteed. Holmes and Garcon will both see $18.75 million in the first two years and each have over $20 million guaranteed. Welker is asked to do more, is more reliable and caught more touchdowns over the past three years.

Hopefully the Patriots are considering a long-term deal now that Welker has signed his tender and came into camp. The cynic would say Welker has no leverage now and the Patriots won't budge. The optimist will say signing and showing up is another example of his "team first" attitude and the club will do a deal. Honestly, Welker never had any real leverage and a show of good faith may be his best hope.

Now that I have gone through the production issues, the contracts surrounding him and considering he's 32, I think the right deal is a three-year contract. The deal should be $25 million over three years with 2012 as is at $9.5 fully guaranteed. Then 2013 another $9.5 guaranteed (which is under the $11.4 franchise tag but guaranteed now) and in 2014 a $2 million roster bonus on the 10th day of the league year and a $4 million salary.

Finally, in Welker's past 39 games on third downs he has caught 69 passes for 794 yards (11.5 per grab). He has moved the chains 195 times! In the fourth quarter of those 39 games he has 75 receptions for 865 yards (11.5 ypc). As for the playoffs, since becoming a Patriot, Welker hits his regular-season average of eight receptions a game. The Patriots have over $13 million of salary cap space and it's time to pay the guy who is always there when they need him.

Drop rates and touchdowns -- 2009-2011 seasons
Larry Fitzgerald 480 8 1:60 27 1983
Greg Jennings 343 12 1:29 25 1983
Anquan Boldin 342 12 1:29 14 1980
Reggie Wayne 456 18 1:25 20 1978
Vincent Jackson 246 10 1:25 21 1983
Stevie Johnson (2 yrs)276 12 1:23 17 1986
Calvin Johnson 432 20 1:22 33 1985
Roddy White 524 26 1:20 29 1981
Andre Johnson 360 17 1:21 19 1981
Wes Welker 458 24 1:19 20 1981
Pierre Garcon 334 18 1:19 16 1986
Santonio Holmes 334 19 1:18 19 1984
Brandon Marshall 440 30 1:15 19 1984
Dwayne Bowe 361 29 1:12 24 1984

Pat Kirwan has been around the league since 1972, serving in a variety of roles. He was a scout for the Cardinals and Buccaneers, a coach for the Jets as well as the team's Director of Player Administration where he negotiated contracts and managed the team's salary cap. He is the author of Take Your Eye Off the Ball: How to Watch Football by Knowing Where to Look, and the host of Sirius NFL Radio's Moving the Chains.

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