After six years and 672 receptions, Wes Welker is no longer a New England Patriot.
The most productive receiver in the NFL from 2007-12 signed with Denver Wednesday afternoon, as first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, and now will be trying to help Peyton Manning get to the Super Bowl and not Tom Brady.
The Patriots chose not to franchise Welker after doing so last season, and thus he became a free agent March 12. Various reports recently had Welker and the Patriots still negotiating, but evidently those broke down just prior to the start of the new league year on Tuesday, and Welker wasted little time finding a suitor.
Reports indicated Welker, who was married in June in Aspen, Col., went back to the Patriots to give them an opportunity to match Denver's offer but ultimately the price proved too steep. Details of the contract are not yet available.
The inaugural three-day "legal tampering period" over the weekend generated some interest in Welker and perhaps that led to his decision to explore the free agent waters. Once he did, the chances of him returning for a seventh season in Foxborough diminished greatly, and now he's a member of the Broncos, who received a huge boost in their quest to top the Patriots and climb atop the AFC.
Manning enjoyed a tremendous season in 2011 coming off multiple neck surgeries that prevented him from playing the previous year. Most of his passes went to the outside with Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas doing much of the damage, but he also utilized veteran slot man Brandon Stokley. Stokley, at age 36, caught 45 passes for 544 yards (12.1-yard average) with five touchdowns. Obviously Welker, who caught 118 passes for 1,354 yards (11.5-yard average) and six touchdowns, would represent an upgrade and give the Broncos another valued weapon to their already potent passing game.