New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker plays on 43 out of a possible snaps during his team’s 34-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans yesterday, recording just three catches for 14 yards on five targets. This equates to just 64% of the snaps, a notable drop from the 89% Welker averaged last season.
Welker is entering this season following an off-season in which he and the Patriots went to battle over his contract. The 31-year-old is playing 2012 under the franchise tag and it’s not clear if he’s a part of the Patriots’ long-term plans. Based on the fact that he split snaps will Julian Edelman yesterday, and the Patriots’ passing attack continued to be centered around tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, it appears that the team could be phasing Welker out already.
This raises the question of how long Welker will remain quiet. If he plays a part-time role again next week, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him ask for a trade. The Patriots have been known to swiftly ship out players who were formerly cornerstone pieces of the offense, but suddenly became expendable (see: Randy Moss, 2010).
Welker is playing under the franchise tag, so his cap hit is too much for many potential trade partners to take on. That’s not to say that there are no teams who could afford him, however, The Jaguars, Titans, Bills, Seahawks and Browns all stand out as potential landing spots.