There’s been a lot of talk about whether the Patriots will spend the money to keep wide receiver Wes Welker, who will become an unrestricted free agent in March if the Patriots don’t re-sign him or slap the franchise tag on him. There’s been less talk about whether the Patriots will spend the money to keep wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who is due a $3 million bonus and a $1.9 million base salary this year.
But it’s entirely possible that both Welker and Lloyd could be gone: Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Globe runs through the Patriots’ options and concludes that the Patriots’ best bet is to let Welker walk and decline to pay the $3 million bonus to Lloyd, making him a free agent, too.
It might sound crazy that a team with a great passing attack like the Patriots would jettison their top two receivers, but New England has never been like most teams when it comes to keeping veterans around, and that’s especially true for expensive, aging veterans. And Welker and Lloyd will both turn 32 this offseason.
There’s also the fact that, even though Welker and Lloyd were first and second on the team in catches and receiving yards, the Patriots love to use tight ends in their passing game. New England has two tight ends, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, who are outstanding slot receivers, and a lot of people are overlooking that the Patriots also have tight end Jake Ballard, a starter on the Giants’ championship team of 2011, who missed all of 2012 with a torn ACL. If Ballard comes back healthy in 2013, the Patriots have three tight ends on their roster who would be the No. 1 tight end on a lot of teams. That gives them a lot of flexibility in their passing game.
Does it give them enough flexibility that they’d say goodbye to both of their starting wide receivers? That we don’t yet know. But it’s a possibility to keep an eye on this offseason.