Wes Welker, Patriots close to new contract, according to report

USA TODAY Sports

New England won't have to use its franchise tag on the star slot receiver.

The New England Patriots are close to a new deal with wide receiver Wes Welker, according to NESN. Welker is set to become a free agent this offseason, but the team looks ready to avoid letting its leading pass-catcher go to the open market.

Welker has surpassed 100 catches and 1,000 yards in all but one of his six seasons in New England. He has been vital to the Patriots' pass-heavy, fast-paced offense, as he is adept at roaming the middle and finding holes in the defense. Quarterback Tom Brady has become even more reliant on Welker in the past two years, as the receiver has set career highs in targets in consecutive seasons.

Football Outsiders rated the Patriots as the most efficient offense in the league, and the best passing game. Welker ranked 19th in defense-adjusted yards above replacement, and 30th in DVOA (measuring how well he performs on a per-play basis).

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