Wes Welker is back.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that the former Patriots and Broncos wideout signed a deal with the St. Louis Rams, per a source informed of the team's plans. Coach Jeff Fisher later confirmed the addition during a meeting with reporters.
Welker's one-year deal allows him to earn, along with his base salary, up to $700K in incentives, based on playing time and catches, Rapoport added, per a source involved with the negotiations.
Welker says he is now healthy but has been out of work since Week 17 of last season with the Raiders. A string of concussions sunk Welker's career with the Broncos. The Rams need all the help they can get through the air. Outside of Tavon Austin, St. Louis doesn't have a single player with more than 20 catches. If Welker can still play, he could see plenty of snaps for a team in need of a spark, the story said.
The Cowboys switched to Matt Cassel at quarterback in part because of his experience. His experience with Wes Welker in 2008 with the New England Patriots could lead to more looks for Cole Beasley. Welker caught at least six passes in 13 of Cassel’s 15 starts and he had four 100-yard games. With the struggles the Cowboys' outside receivers have had in shaking free from coverage, Beasley should be a frequent target for Cassel, who will want to get the ball down the field but who will also be aware of how difficult Beasley is to cover one-on-one underneath. Beasley has at least four catches in every game this season but just two of 20 or more yards.
We project Beasley for five catches for 47 yards and 0.20 TD. He's a decent WR4 option, especially in PPR formats.
Although Bears WR Kevin White garners most of the attention because of his draft status, don't be surprised if Eddie Royal turns out to be the more impactful of the two offseason receiver acquisitions. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase can deploy Royal from a variety of alignments in order to maximize matchups. Royal, 29, can play outside and in the slot. Think of how Gase used Wes Welker with the Broncos the last two seasons — he was a quick, reliable outlet for quarterback Peyton Manning — but also factor in Royal's superior speed and ability to gain yards after the catch.
Royal has been a fantasy headache for years, and now he takes his act to Chicago. White needs to have a good camp to earn a starting job. Royal is likely to serve as the team's slot receiver, where he could siphon targets from the rookie.
Newly-appointed Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison will look to have a more balanced attack in 2015. A trademark of Dennison’s traditional coaching style, the Broncos will now look to rely on both the rushing and passing offense as opposed to last year’s emphasis on the passing game.
“It’s definitely different,” said Sanders. “You talk about going from a no-huddle offense to an offense that’s huddling up, to an offense that is predicated off running a football and then throwing it. It’s different.”
“It’s a totally different set up, but I tell you what, the more and more I’m in it,” said Sanders. “Because we can get the run game going and just use my vertical speed on cross routes and all these different combinations of routes is based off the play action, then I think the offense will be successful with Peyton Manning at the helm.”
“Of course obviously it’s not going to be one of those offenses, well I’m praying that it is, but obviously it’s not going to be one of those offenses where you catch it and you’re going to have two receivers catching over 100 passes,” said Sanders. “Hopefully, my goal is really to try to get a 1,000 yards to just help this team win ball games.”
The Broncos were pretty balanced last season when compared to the rest of the league. They had the 16th-highest pass/run ratio (57.8%), while new HC Gary Kubiak was running the Baltimore offense with the 22nd-highest ratio (55.3%). With Wes Welker and Julius Thomas gone, we believe that Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are still rock-solid investments in the early rounds, even when we account for a drop in pass attempts.
Latimer is a player to monitor this offseason, especially if Wes Welker retires and Emmanuel Sanders moves inside. Latimer had a disappointing rookie season and wasn't even able to beat out Andre Caldwell. However, it takes time to earn Peyton Manning's trust, and the franchise didn't draft him in the second round to ride the proverbial pine.
Welker, who ranks 20th all time among receivers with 890 career catches, said Monday he intends to play on.
"Just getting ready for 2015," Welker told The Denver Post via text.
FoxSports.com cited sources in its report on Feb. 10 that Welker was considering retirement.
"Never ever came out of my mouth," Welker said.
Where Welker plays is uncertain. He becomes an unrestricted free agent on March 10.
Welker's numbers were way down last year (49-464-2) compared to his first season in Denver (73-778-10) even though he played one additional game. The Broncos' pass attempts dropped by 10 percent, and Welker's targets took the biggest hit. We don't expect him to be back in Denver, especially if the team is serious about getting Cody Latimer more involved. Emmanuel Sanders can play the slot with (free agent) Demaryius Thomas and Latimer playing on the outside.
If the Broncos continue emphasizing three-WR sets, and Wes Welker does not return, there's a role for WR Cody Latimer, perhaps lining up outside with Emmanuel Sanders moving into the slot in that package, or even in the slot, on routes like the one he ran in Dallas in the preseason finale last summer.
One aspect of Latimer's skill set that must be noted is his blocking ability, considered by some to be the best among last year's wide receiver class. If he can take his outside blocking skills and transfer them to the inside -- not as a tight end, but standing up in a tight slot alignment -- then the Broncos could have the blocking effectiveness of a two-tight end set with a three-wide receiver formation.
Latimer is unproven, but presents possibilities that the new coaching staff will likely explore.
Latimer is a player to monitor this offseason, especially if Welker retires and Sanders moves inside. Latimer had a disappointing rookie season and wasn't even able to beat out Andre Caldwell. However, it takes time to earn Peyton Manning's trust and the franchise didn't draft him in the second round to ride the proverbial pine.
Friday, December 12, 2014, 6:26pm
Broncos WR Wes Welker (ankle, probable) took full practice reps on Friday after being limited earlier in the week and is probable for Week 15. Welker doesn’t have much fantasy appeal at this point. He’s (at best) the fourth option in the Denver passing game.
Thursday, December 11, 2014, 6:32pm
Broncos WR Wes Welker (ankle) returned to limited practice reps Thursday after missing Wednesday practice.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 6:25pm
Broncos WR Wes Welker (ankle) did not practice Wednesday.
Friday, December 5, 2014, 6:38pm
Broncos WR Wes Welker (not injury related, probable) took full practice reps again Friday and is probable for Week 14. He has scored one touchdown in his last six games and hasn’t gained more than 31 yards in that span.
Thursday, December 4, 2014, 5:59pm
Broncos WR Wes Welker (not injury related) returned to full practice reps Thursday after missing Wednesday. He has scored one touchdown in his last six games and hasn’t gained more than 31 yards in that span.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014, 6:30pm
Broncos WR Wes Welker (not injury related) did not practice Wednesday. Welker is probably just getting a day of rest. He has scored one touchdown in his last six games and hasn’t gained more than 31 yards in that span.
Broncos beat writer Mike Klis on the status of rookie WR Cody Latimer...
It's time for the Broncos to take the training wheels off Latimer, their second-round draft pick this year. Not necessarily because of problems with Caldwell and Welker as receivers. I thought Caldwell performed quite well Sunday at St. Louis in what was his first significant chance at playing time this year.
It's just that Latimer would bring some added strength, toughness and physicality to an offense where all the talk is about how it needs more strength, toughness and physicality.
Friday, November 7, 2014, 6:15pm
Broncos WR Wes Welker (back, probable) took full practice reps all week and is probable for Week 10. It doesn’t look like Welker’s back injury is going to keep him out of Week 10.
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