Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/10/12

From a fantasy owner's perspective, every star is allowed a "stinker" or two. 

Wes Welker's production over the past five years warrants a pass for yesterday's three-catch performance. 

With that being said, the signs are pointing to a major decrease in Welker's catches this year.

Going back to the offseason - the Patriots signed Brandon Lloyd, and extended the contracts of tight end Aaron Hernandez by five years, and made Rob Gronkowski the richest TE in the history of the NFL with a six-year deal.

Meanwhile, the most productive receiver in New England's history was sitting, waiting, wishing for a new deal. Instead after much chagrin, he reluctantly signed a one-year franchise tender.

The Patriots refused to give Welker an extended deal. Coming off a 1,569-yard season with 122 catches, the Patriots declined to invest in the NFL's most prolific slot receiver. 

As an organization, you only have so much money to spend on players who catch passes. The Patriots financial activity from the 2011 offseason sends a message Welker won't be a Pat in 2013.

So fast forward to Week 1 of the 2012 season. 

Welker catches three passes for 14 yards on only five targets. He ended up on the field for 43 of 67 offensive plays. Julian Edelman played 23 snaps as the slot receiver. Telling - almost a third of the offensive snaps had Edelman in the slot. 

The Patriots have an outside threat now in Lloyd (eight Week 1 targets), two of the best TE's in the league to attack the middle of the field, and a blossoming workhorse running back in Stevan Ridley. 

Even if Welker retires a Patriot, the targets that made him great will not be coming back to him.

It's not as though offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is in Tom Brady's helmet whispering, "ignore Welker, ignore Welker." 

As an organization, the Patriots know they won't be bringing back Welker so they'll use this season to ween in his replacement - Edelman. Welker will see less snaps, less targets, and less production.

Will Welker provide some value for fantasy owners in 2012?  Yes. I think 75 catches and 900-1,000 yards is possible. But don't expect 125 catches and 1,400 yards.  Maybe next year when he's on a different team. 



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