What's important to consider is WR Wes Welker's somewhat mild disdain for the Patriots right now, according to a source close to the player. Welker apparently is a little miffed at how he was treated in last year's opener, when offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had him targeted for a season-low five pass attempts that resulted in a season-low three receptions.
That bit of tweaking stuck in Welker's craw all season. So did the notion that if tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski hadn't both gotten hurt at different times, there's a strong belief that Welker would have been limited to far fewer than the 118 receptions he finished with last season. In short, there's a little paranoia in the Welker camp these days about his role with the Pats.
Go play with another quarterback and all of that could suffer. Worse, Welker could go to a team that doesn't let him run constant option routes (the ability to go just about anywhere on the field depending upon the coverage). Suddenly, fans and perhaps the management of a new team could view him as just a little guy who doesn't really measure up in the classic ways.
What that means is that Welker could be a cap casualty in two years, that feisty receiver who went somewhere else and didn't pan out. All that money he was set to make in the third year of the contract could evaporate and he would end up back in New England, asking for another shot, taking minimal salary to do it and hoping to get his place back in line.
It did appear that the Pats were ready to give Julian Edelman a larger role early in the season, but it's possible that they were just preparing for life after Welker, who once again proved his worth throughout the season. It's doubtful that they'll give Welker a sizable contract only to bench him for Edelman, though Welker's role in the offense would diminish if Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski were to stay healthy.