-- On Tuesday, free-agent wide receiver Wes Welker said on 98.5 The Sports Hub, a Boston-based sports radio station, that he would be open to a return to Foxborough, Massachusetts, to play for the Patriots, the team with which he blossomed during six NFL seasons. The statement might come as a surprise to some after Welker's departure from the team in free agency during the 2013 offseason, in which he bolted for Denver after he couldn't come to terms with New England on a long-term deal.
The reality for Welker, now 34, is that making an NFL roster for 2015 is not an absolute certainty. While age is one factor, so too is a recent string of concussions that will likely give teams pause. His overall performance has also declined over the past few seasons, as he averaged just 9.5 yards per catch in 2014, the lowest mark of his career.
The 2015 NFL draft gave teams the chance to invest in young, affordable talent with a higher upside than Welker, but building off of his comments about a desire to continue his NFL career, below is a look at three teams that could consider Welker an option with rosters now at 90 players as official team activities roll along:
Houston Texans: The Texans have Damaris Johnson as a slot presence, as the 25-year old was re-signed this offseason to a one-year deal. But Welker has extensive familiarity with head coach Bill O'Brien and quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett (each looking to earn the starting job). Creating competition is something NFL teams embrace, and Welker could help do that at receiver for Houston.
Baltimore Ravens: Slot receiver Michael Campanaro is dealing with a slight tear in his hamstring that will keep him out of action until training camp. The Ravens are currently carrying 11 receivers on their roster, but five are rookies. Welker would bring veteran experience and a receiver presence at or near the line of scrimmage to the group.
New England Patriots: We'll mention New England after Welker himself broached the topic of a reunion, though my sense is this is unlikely to happen. While Welker's departure in 2013 was less than amicable, the Patriots have shown this offseason that they can mend the fences with a player, as they re-signed linebacker Brandon Spikes, who spoke out negatively about the team during his tenure with Buffalo in 2014. The Patriots don't have a pressing need at wide receiver, but based on his knowledge of the offense and personnel, Welker would be an insurance policy at the slot position.