The Broncos Are Trying to Steal Wes Welker From the Patriots?

Update: Aaaaaand it’s official:

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Denver Broncos are making a strong push to sign wide receiver Wes Welker, the biggest name remaining on the free agent market:

This news is a bit of a bombshell, as the Broncos hadn’t been mentioned as potential Welker suitors previously.

Frankly, very few teams looked like realistic destinations for the 31-year-old receiver (who’ll be 32 by the time the 2013 season starts). Welker can be a difference-maker running his precise routes out of the slot, but he’s old (by NFL standards) and he doesn’t possess any of the athletic traits (speed, strength) that teams generally look for when handing out huge contracts.

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The Patriots reportedly lowballed Welker with a “laughable” offer, but most people still expected him to eventually re-sign in New England after discovering that his unique set of skills isn’t valued as highly around the league as it is in New England. Away from Tom Brady, most people thought that Welker would fade away into obscurity. Welker knew this, many thought, and was simply trying to maximize his leverage before he inevitably re-upped with the Patriots.

Now, it looks like the Patriots’ lowball offer could backfire on them.

It appears that Welker may have discovered the one situation where his value to the team would be equal to his value to the Patriots. The two words that make all the difference? Peyton Manning.

Going from Brady to Manning is hardly a downgrade, and Manning has shown that he knows how to get the most out of a shifty slot receiver. Brandon Stokley ‘s career was brought back from the dead last year in Denver — and there’s no denying that Welker would be an enormous upgrade over Stokley.

Can the Broncos afford Welker, though? They have a lot of money tied up in players on their current roster, but perhaps Welker will be willing to give John Elway and company a bit of a discount, just to spite the Patriots for making him such a lowball offer.

If Schefter’s report is correct, we’ll know the answer to all these questions later today.

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