Examining the Welker-Edelman dilemma

January, 28, 2013
1/28/13
2:30
PM ET
New England Patriots Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker is an unrestricted free agent. The same can be said for Welker's less expensive and less experienced backup: Julian Edelman.

Should the Patriots re-sign one of these in-house receivers or both? That will be one of the biggest topics of discussion behind closed doors at One Patriots Place the next few weeks.

Welker's production has been tremendous. He recorded five seasons of 100 receptions or more in New England and had 118 receptions for 1,354 yards and six touchdowns this season. Welker, 31, played on a one-year franchise tag of $9.5 million in 2012. The Patriots are unlikely to do that again with the franchise tag jumping to $11.4 million for Welker in 2013. It appears to be long-term extension or bust for the Patriots and Welker this offseason.

Meanwhile, New England has been high on the unproven Edelman, 26. He ended last season on injured reserve with a foot injury and will be much cheaper to re-sign than Welker. The Patriots rotated Edelman and Welker early in the season to see how Edelman fits in the offense. That was the first sign that New England was thinking about life without Welker after this season. Edelman had 21 receptions and is a beast on special teams.

But has Edelman showed enough that he can replace Welker's immense production full time? That is a tough decision Bill Belichick & Co. has to make. Edelman appears ready for a bigger role, but inexperience and durability are concerns. The Patriots also must consider that players like Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd would get an increase in opportunities with Welker out of the lineup.

This is arguably the biggest decision the Patriots have to make this offseason. If you are running New England's front office, how would you handle this situation?

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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