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Will Tom Brady Be Better Without Wes Welker for the New England Patriots?

A Historical Look at Brady's Performances After Losing His Top Target

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | With Wes Welker now catching footballs from Peyton Manning in the Mile High City, the New England Patriots' passing game is certainly going to look a bit different for Tom Brady in 2013.

As shocking as it was to see Welker leave, it's not the first time No. 12 has lost his favorite target. In fact, it's happened quite a few times.

But was it for better or for worse?

Let's take a look back.

2006: Deion Branch Out, Reche Caldwell In

After hanging up his best season as a pro in 2005 (78 catches, 998 yards, five touchdowns) Deion Branch was sent packing via trade with the Seattle Seahawks.

Not only was Brady's No. 1 receiver gone, his No. 2 was gone also, as David Givens signed a lucrative five-year deal with the Tennessee Titans following the 2005 season.

The Patriots hoped their second-round draft selection, Chad Jackson, could lessen the blow, but he turned out to be one the biggest draft busts in the Bill Belichick era, collecting just 13 receptions on the season.

Troy Brown was still around, but he was a shadow of his former self and at the very end of his football career--2006 was his last season catching a football in the NFL.

Brady was left with free-agent pickup Reche Caldwell--a guy who had never amassed more than 22 receptions in his then four-year career--to take over the top-receiver role.

Brady made this underwhelming receiver look pretty darn good, as Caldwell finished the year with 61 catches for 706 yards.

Despite having a huge drop-off in receiving talent from the year prior, Brady still finished the season ranked seventh in the league in passing yards (3,529 yards) and ninth in quarterback rating (87.9).

Not too shabby, considering the circumstances.

2007: Randy Moss and Wes Welker Explode Onto The Scene

If Brady could make bad receivers look good, what could he do with great receivers?

We found out in 2007.

Belichick knew he had to get his quarterback some real weapons and that is exactly what he did when he traded for future Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss and the crafty-footed Wes Welker.

Despite having never played together, Brady's chemistry with both Moss and Welker was undeniable. Both receivers were named All-Pro that season.

Oh and Moss broke the NFL record for touchdown receptions in one season with 23.

Brady himself had what many believe to be the best regular season a quarterback has ever had.

He broke the NFL record for touchdown passes in one season with 50 and led the league in yards (4,806), quarterback rating (117.2) and completion percentage (68.9) all on his way to being named NFL MVP.

In 2006, Brady proved that, even with mediocre-to-bad receivers, he was still a very good quarterback. In 2007, he proved that with talented receivers, he was the best quarterback in the game.

2010: The End of Moss, the Beginning of the Boston TE Party

After publicly airing his contract complaints, the Patriots quickly traded Moss to the Vikings after Week 4.

Brady's most prolific pass catcher was once again headed to another team.

But he still had some familiar faces. Welker remained a Patriot and they even brought back Branch (whose skills had declined since his heyday in New England) through a trade with the Seahawks.

On the surface, it seemed to be familiar ground for Brady, but a couple of fresh draftees, namely Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, steadily steered the ship in a new direction: the two tight-end set.

Gronk and Hernandez quickly became an integral part of the offense with nearly 30% of Brady's completions belonging to them, as well as 16 of Brady's 36 touchdown passes ( per ESPN.com ).

Brady finished the season ranked first in quarterback rating (111) and touchdown passes (36) and threw just four interceptions all season--breaking the NFL record for touchdown pass-to-interception ratio in a regular season as well as the most consecutive passes (335) without an interception.

He was also unanimously voted NFL MVP, becoming the first player to ever receive all 50 votes for the award.

2013: Will History Repeat Itself?

In 2013, Brady will once again have to adapt to a new receiving corps.

Yes, Welker is gone, but the Patriots gathered a lot of talent for Brady to mold into reliable pass catchers, including 27-year-old Danny Amendola who, according to Mike Reiss and Field Yates of ESPNBoston , has already developed a rapport with Brady on the field.

Welker comparisons aside, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who thinks Amendola is lacking talent.

They also brought in a pair of highly touted draft picks in Aaron Dobson (second round) and Josh Boyce (fourth round) as well as a cast of undrafted free agents including draft snubs like WR Mark Harrison and TE Zach Sudfeld. Surely one of them will make their mark.

If they can fend off the injury bug, Brady will also still have the most important parts of his passing offense intact: Gronk and Hernandez.

Let's not forget about Julian Edelman either, who, before injury, was blossoming into a polished receiver.

So while the group looks different, Brady has a good blend of familiar faces and new talent to throw to.

And as history has shown us, that is when Brady is at his very best.

James DiMaio is a Yahoo! contributor who also covers the NFL and the New England Patriots for Bleacher Report.

Follow James on Twitter @JamesDiMaio or visit his profile .

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