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Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Future Focus: Wide receivers

By Mike Reiss

Third in a series of positional "look-aheads" for the Patriots:

Welker
Should the Patriots give Wes Welker a contract extension this offseason?
Wide receiver: Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman, Taylor Price, Matthew Slater, Darnell Jenkins, Buddy Farnham

Stat check: Welker was targeted 123 times, the highest total of any player on the team, followed by Branch (74), Tate (46) and Edelman (14). Welker’s 11 drops led the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information tracking.

First instinct: The team’s potential moves at this position are tied to how they view Tate and Price, third-round picks from 2009 and 2010, and I think the view is positive. Thus, the feeling here is that a big move is not anticipated.

Storyline not to be overlooked: Do the Patriots have too many of the same type of receivers? As part of the year-end evaluation, that had to be a question that Bill Belichick and his staff were asking in an offense that featured more two-receiver sets than it had in recent memory. The offense looked generally sharp over the final eight regular-season games -- with the team scoring 30-plus points in each game -- but did the playoff loss to the Jets highlight the lack of a big-play option on the outer edges of the field?

Future: Branch and Welker enter the final year of their contracts. The next three players on the depth chart -- Tate (2012), Edelman (2012) and Price (2013) -- have multiple years remaining on their deals.

Final thought: If the Patriots felt they wanted to add a big-play option, perhaps they’d consider Randy Moss’ return as a free-agent. If it’s the 2007-type Moss from an attitude perspective, it would be a slam dunk. Outside of Moss, I don’t see the team attempting to acquire/sign another veteran, such as Chad Ochocinco. My feeling is that the club invested a year in developing Taylor Price and they’ll give him the chance to be the guy.

Your thoughts: What do you think the Patriots should do at wide receiver this offseason? Sign a big-play option? Give Welker an extension? Stand pat? Share your opinions in the comments section of this blog entry.