|Evan Mathis, Wes Welker top list of veteran NFL free agents still in search of work||08.24.15 at 12:34 pm ET|
With summer winding down and the regular season fast approaching, there still are some veteran free agents on the market who have expressed an interest in playing in 2015. Here are eight intriguing veteran possibilities who could find themselves in uniform again between now and Labor Day.
Evan Mathis — The 33-year-old guard, who was released by the Eagles earlier this offseason, probably is best offensive lineman currently available. While there are questions about how much he’d command, he’s had no shortage of suitors to this point. Reports have linked him to the Seahawks, Dolphins, Titans and Chiefs. The 6-foot-5, 301-pounder is a two-time Pro Bowler who has played for the Eagles, Bengals, Dolphins and Panthers.
Wes Welker — When he blew through town last spring on a promotional tour, Welker said that he’d gladly re-sign with the Patriots if given the chance. A reunion with Tom Brady would be fun to write about, but at the same time, the 34-year-old Welker has had concussion and other injury issues the last season-plus with the Broncos, which might take him out of the picture, at least as it relates to New England. However, like Wayne and some other veteran receivers still on the market, he could get a phone call because of the recent injuries to the likes of Nelson and Kelvin Benjamin.
Randy Moss –– Why not? He teased everyone the last few days with the thought of him returning. It’s debatable how much he has left in the tank, but if we can seriously talk about the idea of Wayne coming back, why not Moss? The 38-year-old played 14 seasons in the NFL, including three-plus years with the Patriots from 2007 through the early stages of the 2010 season. With New England he caught 259 passes for 3,904 yards and 50 touchdowns. If he can still play, he would likely have a short list of contenders, and you figure given his past history with the Patriots, New England would be on that list.
|Former Patriots WR Wes Welker on MFB: I’ve never ruled out return to New England||06.02.15 at 12:29 pm ET|
Former Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker joined Middays with MFB on Tuesday to discuss his relationship with the team and his future plans. To hear the interview, go to the Middays with MFB audio on demand page.
Welker is currently a free agent, but he has put work into staying in shape this offseason and being ready for training camp. Welker has played in 11 NFL seasons, with the last two coming with the Broncos.
“I’ve just been working out and staying in shape,” Welker said. “I’ve been down in Florida doing all of that. My wife has called it ‘The Offseason of Wes.’ She’s pregnant right now (with twins) so we’ve been traveling around. … We’ve just been going on vacation because I don’t have to report to a team right now. We’ve been to the Bahamas and we’ve been to Cabo. She can’t travel any more after this weekend so I’ll be down in Florida training all the way leading up to training camp and kind of seeing what happens.”
Additionally, Welker did not rule out a potential return to the Patriots.
“I think there are a handful of teams that are definitely an option,” he said. “If the right situation comes up and everything kind of pieces together then I’ll definitely play again. … I don’t think there’s any hard feelings there [with Bill Belichick]. Definitely not from my side and I don’t think from his either. I’ve never ruled that out.”
When asked about Deflategate, Welker defended Tom Brady, his former quarterback and good friend.
“It’s like, ‘Oh, Tom [Brady] did it? Yeah, it’s definitely a big deal,'” he said. “I never really noticed a difference in the balls. I think it is [a big deal] because it’s him. Other teams are kind of like, ‘I knew he was doing something.’ I don’t know how big of a deal it is.”
He continued to defend the Patriots when discussing allegations of improved ball security through ball deflation.
“I guess that’s one statistic you kind of look at that you’re kind of like, ‘Okay, maybe that helped?'” he said. “Everybody practices good ball security. It’s not like Bill [Belichick] reinvented the wheel on that one. He obviously emphasizes it a lot and does a great job with it, but every team does.”
With many of his former teammates celebrating a Super Bowl win this past February, Welker may have regrets of his own, but remains happy for his friends.
“Obviously you’re happy for your friends,” he said. “Deep down, you’re like, ‘Man, this sucks. We should’ve done that.’ Or, ‘I should have been there.’ Or, ‘We should’ve won in the past.’ A lot of thoughts go through your head, but that’s the game. The ball bounces a funny way, you throw it up in the air and you don’t know where it’s going to bounce. It’s just the way it goes sometimes. You should move on. Life goes on.”
Though he and the Patriots reportedly parted ways on bad terms, Welker insists he has no hard feelings towards the organization.
|Some history behind Patriots and franchise tag||03.02.15 at 1:30 pm ET|
A few notes as we all wait for the 4 p.m. deadline on the franchise tag:
On four of the eight occasions the Patriots hit someone with the franchise tag, they did it on the last day of the window: Wes Welker (2012), Adam Vinatieri (2005), Tebucky Jones (2003) and Vinatieri (2002). The Welker announcement came just prior to the deadline.
Three of the eight tags ultimately led to contract extensions with the Patriots: Logan Mankins (2011), Vince Wilfork (2010) and Vinatieri (2002). Wilfork’s offseason came at the end of the tumultuous few months for the defensive lineman, who was strongly against the idea of being tagged. He eventually acquiesced, and that set the stage for a new five-year deal that made him the highest-paid nose tackle in the league.
In addition, on three occasions, a player played that year under the franchise tag, and then departed as a free agent the following year: Welker (2012), Asante Samuel (2007) and Vinatieri (2005). In retrospect, it was clear that few players wanted to get out of town faster than Samuel. He held out for most of the offseason and into the summer, eventually signing his tender on Aug, 27. He left as a free agent the following offseason – he was in Philly at a press conference announcing his signing with the Eagles less than 18 hours following the start of free agency the next year.
And two players were tagged and then traded: Matt Cassel (2009) to the Chiefs and Jones (2003) to the Saints. While a few different scenarios could play out between now and the end of the offseason if one of the Patriots is tagged between now and the deadline, this is probably not one of them.
|Gary Kubiak on Wes Welker: ‘I know he wants to play some more football’||02.18.15 at 1:16 pm ET|
After a report a few weeks back saying Wes Welker was contemplating retirement, it doesn’t seem like the 33-year-old is ready to call it quits just yet, according to new Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak.
Although Welker is a free agent, Kubiak spoke to Welker over the phone — as he did with every every Denver player — and Welker was working out in Arizona.
“I’ve spoken to every player on the team,” Kubiak told reporters at the combine. “It’s the first thing I did when I got there was pick up the phone and call and say hello and let them know how excited I was to be a part of it. But I had a good conversation with Wes. I’ve known him, know people who have known him for many, many years.
“I know he wants to play some more football and, like I said, like any of these free agents we’re talking about right now, we’d love to have them back. We’ll see how this thing works out. But I know he’s feeling good, he told me he’s feeling good and actually was working down in Arizona, I think, at the time I talked to him.”
Kubiak said he will stay out of Welker’s way and ultimately let him make the decision of first of all whether he wants to come back to the NFL, and secondly if that will be in Denver or somewhere else.
“No, I think that’s Wes,” said Kubiak. “No, I do not think that’s my place. I’m just developing a relationship with Wes from his standpoint. I hope I get an opportunity to coach him and be a bigger part of his career. I have great respect for what he’s done and the job he’s done, and he did a very good job in Denver. Only he can work through that and know how he’s feeling, but he was very positive with me.”
Dealing with injuries in Denver, Welker has totaled 124 catches for 1,242 yards and 12 touchdowns in his two seasons as a Bronco, but finished with just two touchdowns this past year. Welker has played 11 seasons in the NFL.
For more Patriots and NFL news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|Report: Wes Welker mulling retirement instead of free agency||02.10.15 at 8:48 pm ET|
Is Wes Welker‘s career over?
According to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports, that is a real possibility. Welker, 33, is set to become a free agent next month but is instead considering retirement after several years of head injuries and declining production.
One of the sources told Garafolo that “no final decision has been made” though Welker has told concerned friends, family members and associates he’s at least giving thought to walking away from the game.
Welker has contemplated the possibility in recent weeks after telling reporters he was “not even thinking about that” after Denver’s loss to the Colts in the division round of the playoffs. A day later, while cleaning out his locker, Welker was asked about returning to Denver and replied, “I don’t know. There are a lot of things I’ve got to figure out in the offseason.”
One of those things might be the future of Peyton Manning. The Times-Picayune (New Orleans) reported Manning is training in New Orleans with the intention of returning to Denver next season. According to multiple reports, Manning is scheduled to meet with general manager John Elway and team president and CEO Joe Ellis before next week’s scouting combine in Indianapolis.
If Welker does decide to hang them up, he will have posted one of the best careers of any slot receiver in NFL history and will have made his case for the Hall of Fame. The 5-foot-9, 185-pounder out of Texas Tech has 890 career catches for 9,822 yards and 50 touchdowns. His most productive seasons came with Tom Brady in New England, as he posted five 100-catch seasons before heading to Denver to team up with Peyton Manning before the 2013 season, signing a two-year, $12 million deal. Read the rest of this entry »
|Mr. Consistency: TE Tim Wright setting new standard for reliability in Patriots passing game||11.26.14 at 10:26 am ET|
FOXBORO — Tim Wright is in some rarefied air.
In his first season with the Patriots, the tight end has proven himself to be an eminently reliable part of the passing game — he has 23 catches on 26 targets. Even with the understanding that one of the targets was a throwaway by quarterback Tom Brady (an uncatchable ball), that’s an 88 percent catch rate, the best on the New England roster when it comes to players who have been targeted by Brady at least 20 times.
If he continues at his current rate, he’ll set a new standard for the Patriots. Since 2006, no member of the Patriots who has been targeted at least 20 times has a reception rate of better than 80 percent.
Of course, none of this is particularly new for Wright — last season with the Buccaneers, he proved equally sure-handed, as he caught 71 percent of the passes (54 receptions on 76 targets) that were thrown his way. But his target numbers this year — combined with his six receiving touchdowns (second on the team to fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski), have made him one of the surprise success stories when you’re talking about the 2014 Patriots offense.
Part of Wright’s success is rooted in the fact that most teams are solely focused on stopping Gronkowski, and have usually dedicated at least two defenders per play in hopes of trying to slow down the big fella. But it’s another thing altogether to take advantage of the opportunities when they’re presented to you, and Wright has done just that.
“Every time we throw to him it’s a touchdown — we’ll try to find him more down there,” Brady said after Wright’s two-touchdown performance against the Lions. “He does a great job in the coverage and finds the open spots.”
While the touchdown ratio is impressive — more than one-quarter of his catches have resulted in touchdowns — his work as a reliable target has really distinguished him from the rest of the field. Since 2006 — when targets were first tallied, on five different occasions, a New England pass catcher who was targeted at least 20 times caught 77 percent of the passes that were thrown in his direction. The latest high-level connection came in 2010 when running back Danny Woodhead caught 34 of the 44 passes that were thrown his way.
Prior to that, veteran running back Kevin Faulk did it three times: Faulk caught 58 of the 75 passes thrown his way in 2008, while both wide receiver Wes Welker (112-of-145) and Faulk (47-of-61) hit the 77 percent mark in 2007. And Faulk caught 43 of the 56 passes thrown his way in 2006 to reach the same plateau. (While Welker was targeted more than any other receiver between 2007 and 2012 and was consistently over 70 percent between 2007 and 2011, he never topped the 77 percent mark.)
According to Wright, the key to being a good target is simple.
|A history of Bill Belichick’s best postgame rip jobs: ‘That’s a lot of conversation coming from a team that just lost another game’||11.24.14 at 12:11 pm ET|
Bill Belichick’s shot at Dominic Raiola on Monday morning got us to thinking about the moments — and they’re few and far between — where the Patriots coach has fired back at an opposing player after the game. (That means Baltimore’s Derrick Mason doesn’t qualify for this list.) In no particular order, here’s our top four:
1) Eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell: The chatty pass catcher — who once told the media that he’d “like to thank my hands for being so great” — took plenty of shots at the New England secondary in the days leading up to Super Bowl XXXIX against the Patriots, saying he only knew the numbers and not the names of the New England defensive backs. (He added that he had “something special” for safety Rodney Harrison.) After New England beat Philly for the title, Belichick told Sports Illustrated: “All he does is talk. He’s terrible. And you can print that. I was glad when he was in the game.”
2) Steelers safety Anthony Smith: In December 2007, the Pittsburgh defensive back guaranteed a win over the Patriots, and dismissed the New England receiving corps: “They’ve got [Wes] Welker and Moss, but they’re not like Cincinnati.” During the game, Smith was targeted on several occasions by the Patriots, who rolled to a convincing 34-13 win. In his postgame press conference, Belichick was asked about Smith. “We’ve played a lot better safeties than him, I’ll tell you that,” he said.
3) Panthers defensive backs Chris Gamble and Chris Harris: In the wake of a December 2009 loss to the Patriots, the duo conveyed that Randy Moss didn’t go all-out in the game. That drew a harsh retort from Belichick, who said the day after the contest: “My response would be that’s a lot of conversation coming from a team that just lost another game,” Belichick said. The coach then proceeded to pile on Carolina, who dropped to 5-8 on the year with the defeat. “You can say whatever you want,” Belichick said to the media. “That’s your job. I just told you. I have a lot of respect for Randy. I think he’s one of our best players. I think if you watch other teams defend him, you watch other teams play against him, they think the same way. Other than these two guys from Carolina after they lost another game. I guess they didn’t think that way. They haven’t won a lot of games now.”
4) Broncos receiver Wes Welker: In the 2013 AFC title game, Welker collided with Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib on a crossing pattern, knocking Talib out of the game on the way to a Denver win over New England. The following day, Belichick hammered Welker. “I feel badly for Aqib, the way the play turned out,” Belichick said. “It was a deliberate play to take out Aqib. No attempt to get open. I’ll let the league handle the discipline on that. It’s not for me to decide, but it’s one of the worst plays I’ve seen. And that’s all I am going to say about that.”
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