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Back and forth with the saga of Wes Welker

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  March 6, 2013 10:37 AM

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Wes Welker can’t win.

OK, sure, somebody is going to pay the free agent wide receiver gobs of money this offseason, but his contractual status with the New England Patriots has become a relative soap opera worthy of whatever Oprah calls her network these days. First, the Patriots were supposedly “phasing” Welker out of the offense according to some media members, be it for his Super Bowl “drop” (bad pass), or the understanding that his time in New England was limited, playing under the franchise tag for one final season.

One thousand, three hundred, and fifty four yards later, including a league-leading 619 yards after the catch, that theory was put to rest. Next?

Now we have Welker on the verge of free agency with Patriots fans kicking him on the way out the door, pointing to his drops in last year’s Super Bowl loss to the Giants and in this year’s AFC title game falter to the Baltimore Ravens. Of course, that simplistic approach disregards how important an asset that Welker has been for Tom Brady and the Patriots since arriving here in 2007 and just how risky a proposition it might be to head into the 2013 season without his services, especially since tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are injury prone and Brandon Lloyd may not be back.

So, it was assumed that when Brady re-structured his contract last week, that Welker was next in line. Yet, after a report Tuesday that detailed just how close the two sides were to a new, three-year deal, Welker remains unsigned, with free agency looming. On Wednesday, an ESPN report stated that Welker is insistent on testing the market before signing a deal with the Patriots, adding yet another layer to a story in the works a day after another report stated that Welker had “mild disdain” for the organization.

Mild disdain? Is that like jumbo shrimp? Amicable hatred?

Whatever we know about Welker’s future with the New England Patriots, at least we know that the story will change in 45 to 47 minutes from now. Heck, for all we know, someone will break that Welker is actually in line for the Pope gig.

The daily Wes Welker update has been like reading “The Far Side,” a morning update that is beginning to delve into absurdity. Depending upon whom you speak to, Welker is either thoroughly committed to finishing the job here in New England, or he’s ready to cut bait and return to Miami for a big paycheck. And you just know that if it’s the latter, Patriot fans will react with a venomous vigor that we can already smell percolating.

Never mind the fact that the Patriots defense has been about as porous as a cheap napkin the past few seasons, some choose to look at Welker, whether it is with the feeling of his impending departure or not, and lay blame at his feet for a pair of costly drops that may not have been entirely his fault. What they are apparently willing to give up is one of the best, most consistent receivers in the game for the dubious notion that Julian Edelman is the heir apparent. This, despite the fact that the next hit Edelman takes and bounces back from will be his first.

Welker’s durability has certainly been underappreciated to some measure. For a team that can’t seem to keep its receiving corps healthy and together for any significant stretch of time, you’d figure that might mean more.

And it probably does. We expect a report any moment that Welker has re-upped. Then, probably another one that he’s gone. Still holding out for the Pope news too.

But so goes the saga of Wes Welker and his future with New England, like the weather he's played in for the last six seasons. Don't like it? Wait a minute.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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