Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 2/26/13
No, Tom Brady probably didn’t make Bob Kraft and Bill Belichick give him a secret handshake, promising that if he gave them a few million, they’d turn and sign his buddy, Wes Welker. Sentimental Patriots fans would only like to think that. But that doesn’t mean that Brady restructuring his contract — the second time in a calendar year — wasn’t done with Welker in mind. Yes, it’s a “team-friendly” deal (but hold your horses, because it could be a lot friendlier) — but, more than that, it’s a Welker-friendly deal. While the Patriots may not have had much wiggle room before to give Welker the multiyear contract he wanted, the timing of Brady’s extension and the space it provides means the Patriots have no excuse now. They are ready if they choose to make a move. After many proclamations that the Pats would like to make Welker a Patriot for life, now is the time. The idea of an extension before free agency begins in March is not far-fetched, with New England wise to lock up Welker quickly rather than letting other teams drive up the price — or steal him away. The Patriots also need to move quickly on Welker for other reasons. Welker has always been the first domino in New England’s 2013 offseason. While help is needed on the offensive line, with Sebastian Vollmer a free agent, and in the secondary, where Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard are gambles on which the Pats need to decide, the championship road in New England will always go through Brady and whoever is on the other end of his throws. The Patriots have had several eras since Belichick became coach in 2000, and it’s clear which blend New England prefers. Defense and Brady won three titles, a lack of offense led to short-circuited playoff hopes for several years, and then a horrible secondary hamstrung the Patriots’ offense-powered teams in recent years. The Patriots prefer the final rendition — and the hope that they can plug defensive holes — over going back to the offensively weak teams that negated Brady’s ability for many seasons. The reason Welker is such an important signing is because having him on the team gives the Patriots another area they can cross off their development to-do list. While New England has had skill developing young players or plugging in veterans here and there, such as on defense, some positions are vital and can’t involve guesswork. Wide receiver — at least one wide receiver spot — has become one of those. The Patriots have had serious hiccups incorporating new wide receivers in recent years, from Chad Ochocinco to Brandon Lloyd. Spending extra for a proven player who has been a bargain for the team is plenty reasonable if the payoff is avoiding the headaches that have happened before (Chad Finn‘s take, and his comparison to the Deion Branch situation, is especially helpful on this one). Once Welker is taken care of, the team can get to its other pressing needs, deciding whether to bring back Talib and doling out money on other positions. The draft, free agency and the trade market all have plenty of possibilities for the Patriots to comb through, and the team could go in many directions as it evaluates personnel and cap space. But one spot where the Patriots have likely long had their minds made up is at wide receiver, where Welker has been among the best. The powers that be know whether Welker will be back — it just took time to answer the final questions (like if someone like Julian Edelman could take his place) and to free up the money that could make investing in one offensive tool worthwhile when trying to build a team that is losing about two dozen free agents. The Patriots know whether they consider Welker essential, or whether they’ll be happy with what he’s done for several seasons and let him go. But in terms of when that decision will be made public in the form of a contract? That time is now. The big domino has fallen in freeing up money to sign Welker, and now the Patriots must pull the trigger before free agency so the rest of the team can be put in order. The Pats have enough to spend on Welker and then pick freely among other the pieces, with no excuses. Waiting gains them nothing. Who knows whether Brady had a hand in getting Welker on the team for another season. This much is clear, though: Brady isn’t interested in returning to the years when he didn’t have a receiver as reliable as Welker to make his offense go, and he’s shown that in a big way by reworking his deal. The Patriots now must show whether they agree.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Tom Brady threw 'incredibly well' during practice Friday

Pacific Notes: Flames looking for winger, Nugent-Hopkins' injury won't change Oilers' plan

Knicks hesitant to go after Kemba Walker

Rays still engaged in Archer trade talks

Details emerge on Brady's injury: 'Right thumb bent back badly'

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Roy Halladay autopsy shows he had mix of drugs in system

Report: Indians, Orioles had discussed Manny Machado trade

Report: Jets WR threatened to sexually assault cop's wife

Report: Cavs seeking trades for DeAndre Jordan, George Hill

Tom Brady has 'just a cut' near knuckle, needed stitches

NFL determines Raiders complied with Rooney Rule

Sports & Politics Intersect: Nassar's victims put USA Gymnastics, MSU on trial

The 'One of these things is not like the other' quiz

Top 25 times franchise players have changed scenes in MLB

The best college hoops games to watch down the stretch

NHL Weekender: Kings, Leafs heading in the wrong direction

NFL Championship Weekend Predictions: History will be made in the NFC

Devin Booker is expanding his game beyond getting buckets

Greatest NFL Conference Championship moments ever

Top 10 X-factors for Conference Championship Games

Case Keenum deserves better than the also-ran description

Best performances in the history of NFL Conference Championship games

15 underrated NBA players having tremendous seasons

Patriots News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Sports & Politics Intersect: Nassar's victims put USA Gymnastics, MSU on trial

Top 25 times franchise players have changed scenes in MLB

The 'One of these things is not like the other' quiz

The best college hoops games to watch down the stretch

NHL Weekender: Kings, Leafs heading in the wrong direction

The 'Baby I'm a (All-)Star' quiz

Devin Booker is expanding his game beyond getting buckets

Ranking baseball's GMs entering the 2018 season

NFL Referee Hotline Bling: The Saints miss an important long-distance call

Johnny Gaudreau, Flames hope layoff won't cool them down

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker