Mike Giardi of CSNNE.com reported Tuesday that Wes Welker and the New England Patriots were "closing in on a multi-year contract" and ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss wrote Monday that "it would be a surprise if he's not back next season, and even a few more after that." However, while it may well end up being the case that the Pats and Welker will ink a long-term contract extension, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported Wednesday on SportsCenter that Welker won't sign on the dotted line until free agency begins next week.
"First and foremost, Wes Welker does not plan to re-sign with New England before first testing the free-agent market," Schefter said. "That doesn't mean that he couldn't wind up back in New England. A lot of people around the league believe ultimately he will, but he first wants to see what his value will be on the street. And if there's a suitor out there who wants to pay for Wes Welker, he's willing to move on from New England at this point in time."
Who might come calling for the pass-catching machine? ESPN NFL Insider KC Joyner pegs the Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets as logical landing spots for Welker. Although the Jets securing Welker from their division rival would make for a great story, Joyner thinks the Bucs might make the most sense for Welker:
"This situation could be the most intriguing of all since the Buccaneers already have the makings of one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. They have a terrific No. 1 wide receiver in Vincent Jackson (led the league with 19.2 yards per reception), a top-flight bell cow running back in Doug Martin (1,454 rushing yards, ranked fifth in the league) and a very good No. 2 wide receiver in Mike Williams (7.8 overall YPA). The missing link for this offense is a third receiving threat, as the other wide receivers and tight ends combined for 1,107 yards on 174 targets, which equates to a mediocre 6.4 YPA. Give 100-125 of those targets to someone of Welker’s caliber and the Bucs offense should be able to take the jump from its ranking ninth in total yards in 2012 to competing for a top 5 spot in that category in 2013."