Since he came to the New England Patriots in 2007, Wes Welker has been about as productive as a receiver can be. In five seasons, he's caught 554 passes for 6,105 yards (an 11.0 yards-per-catch average) and 31 touchdowns. He's redefined the role of possession receiver in some of the most productive offenses in league history, and he's far from done. In 2011, Welker caught 122 passes -- the second most in his career, and good enough to lead the NFL in receptions for the third time in the last five seasons.
So, it was a bit surprising when the New England Patriots decided to place the franchise tag on Welker instead of signing him to a new long-term contract. "I'm pretty certain I'll be playing there this next year, and I'm looking forward to that," Welker told Shutdown Corner in April. "Like everybody else, I'd like a long-term deal, but at the same time, I'm just focused on going out there and playing the best I can."
After biding his time, Welker signed his tender on Tuesday, and announced it on Twitter.
Confident that a new deal is around the corner, and unwilling to create distractions as organized team activities begin soon, Welker is now looking forward to what he perceives to be a willingness on both sides to get that new contract hammered out.
"I think we are all on the same page," he told WEEI on Monday. "We're all trying to collectively come together and make something happen. I think everybody just seems to know we're all on the same page and we're trying to work towards something.
"I think anybody that plays for any organization that has done a good job over the years wants to be rewarded for it. I think I'm no different from any other guy that's in the league. The main thing is just trying to keep a level head about it and make sure you're making the best decisions for yourself, but at the same time put yourself in a position where you can play for a great team and hopefully do some great things in the future."
There are few better situations for any receiver than the one Welker's enjoyed over the last half-decade, and with Tom Brady recently telling SI.com's Peter King that he'd like to play another 10 years, why go anywhere else?
"There's no doubt," Welker said. "Tom, in every decision he makes, in everything he does — from what he eats to what he drinks to what his traveling schedule is — everything is centered around football. Everything. It's almost sickening. It's almost like an illness that he has or something. Every decision he makes is literally towards being a better football player. I commend him on it. It's hard. It's not easy to eat the way he does, to train the way he does and do the things he needs to do to be better. Especially in the position he's in, he doesn't have to. But he loves it. That's what he strives for and what he loves. And it shows in the way he carries himself."
It shows in the way Welker carries himself, too. In a world full of me-firsters who like to portray themselves as team guys, the eight-year veteran gets the point as few others do. An undrafted free agent out of Texas Tech, Welker amassed the second-most all-purpose yards in NFL history in his first three seasons behind only Gale Sayers. And that was when the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins were taking turns failing to recognize what they had.
There should be little doubt that Welker will get his long-term deal over time -- if he doesn't, and the Pats are foolish enough to let him go down the road, the line of suitors should include every other NFL team. In the meantime, Welker can enjoy the guaranteed one-year $9.5 million tender and look forward to the 2012 season.
"No, not at all. Not at all," he said when asked if holding out was ever an option. "There's 9 1/2 million reasons why I wouldn't miss any regular-season game. So, I don't have to worry about that."
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