NEPD Staff Writer: Tony Santorsa
Very rarely do you see one of the NFL’s prolific passing attacks part ways with their top two receivers in one offseason—but the New England Patriots are a different breed of animal.
According to Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Globe, Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd don’t have a guaranteed roster spot in 2013.
If I’m the Patriots, I let Welker walk, I don’t pay Brandon Lloyd’s $3 million option (making him a free agent), and I use that money to find the best X receiver on the market to threaten defenses down the left sideline. Lloyd was close, but not quite the right guy. He could also come in the draft if the Patriots can identify, for the first time since Deion Branch and David Givens in 2002, a real talent.
I’m sure all of you are quite aware that Welker is set to hit the free agent market this season, after playing under the $9.5 million franchise tag this season, and that his return to the Patriots is certainly in limbo.
Late last week I pointed out that the Patriots could always tag Welker yet again, but this time the price would be substantially higher as the tag is set at $11.4 million. I also reported, via Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, that the two parties could settle for a two-year, $16 million deal—but that still doesn’t change the fact that Welker turns 32 in May.
As for Lloyd, he turns 32 in July and simply wasn’t what the Patriots were hoping for in 2012.
Granted, Lloyd recorded 74 receptions of 130 targets for 911 yards and four touchdowns while playing in all 16 games—but he was inconsistent, to say the least. There were stretches where Lloyd was almost invisible and it seemed like Tom Brady and Lloyd never really clicked.
Given the fact that Bill Belichick and the Patriots don’t like to pay aging veterans, the possibility of New England playing without their top two receivers in 2013 is certainly a possibility.
In a draft that does have some talent at the wide receiver position, with prospects like Keenan Allen, Robert Woods, Tavon Austin, DeAndre Hopkins and Cordarrelle Patterson, the Patriots could very well look towards the draft for a possible replacement.
We haven’t seen a wide receiver acquired via the draft click with Brady in New England’s offense since Deion Branch—but you can make a debate for Julian Edelman, but I’m referring to an X-receiver rather than a Z.
The possible reformation of New England’s receiving corps doesn’t have to take place in the draft, as players such as Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe, Greg Jennings and Danny Amendola are all slotted in to be free agents.
Following the report posted by Bedard, ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss also indicated that Welker and Lloyd might not be Patriots next season and described it as that they’re not “locks” for 2013:
I think we’ll see Edelman back, but Lloyd and Welker aren’t locks in my view. A lot will depend on the market/economics. I’m interested to see how they approach it.
Along with Welker hitting the open market, key players such as cornerback Aqib Talib, offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer and wide receiver Julian Edelman will all be free agents this offseason too.
By looking at New England’s situation with finical issues as the priority, passing on Welker and Lloyd’s $3 million option might be the better decision as it opens up possibilities of tagging Talib, signing both Vollmer and Edelman, and then possibly targeting a wide receiver via the draft or free agency.
I like to look at this situation much like Reiss, both Welker and Lloyd aren’t “locks” to return to New England this upcoming season. We may see a very different looking offense in 2013.