The Contract Welker Should Have Signed
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Contract Prediction: Wes Welker

While many franchise-tagged players were able to garner long-term contracts out of their respective teams, Wes Welker was unable to do so. In fact, rumors were swirling that discussions barely existed surrounding the opportunity to extend Welker's stay in New England. The Patriots have notoriously let confrontational situations fall by the wayside, and in doing so have made mistakes. But another AFC Championship in 2011 means giving them the benefit of the doubt, even in terms of Welker. The Patriots are simply using the tools that the CBA has allotted them, including the option for a franchise tag. That being said, it only seems fair to assess the current state of Welker, and provide a formulaic prediction for the long-term contract he should have signed this offseason.

To analyze Welker, we'll compare statistics over his career as a wide receiver (2007-2011) against other receivers of comparable age and quality. We'll start by listing these receivers, their most recently signed contract, and the age they were when signing.
Comparable Wide Receivers
Player Length Value Avg. Salary Age When Signed
Vincent Jackson 5 $55.55 million $11.11 million 29
Brandon Marshall 5 $47.3 million $9.46 million 26
Santonio Holmes 5 $45 million $9 million 27
Anquan Boldin 4 $28 million $7 million 29
Roddy White 6 $48 million $8 million 27
Reggie Wayne 3 $17.5 million $5.83 million 33
Steve Smith 4 $37.5 million $9.43 million 33
Computing a linear regression of the years and value of these contracts gives us a starting point for a Welker deal:
Length Value Average Salary
4.57 $35,309,941 $8,827,485
Statistical Analyzations
Now let's analyze these players statistically over their careers by showing Games/Season, Receptions/Season, Yards/Season, Yards/Game, and TD/Season. We'll also include statistics for the two years prior to that player signing his contract, to reflect a "prime" state he may have been in.
Vincent Jackson (TB) Career Last 2 Seasons Prime %
Games/Season10.51381%
Receptions/Season7438.9190%
Rec Yards/Season1354680199%
Receiving Yards/Game59.3552.2114%
Receiving TD/Season65.2115%
140%
Brandon Marshall (CHI) Career Last 2 Seasons Prime %
Games/Season14.515.196%
Receptions/Season93.582.3114%
Rec Yards/Season10671041.2102%
Receiving Yards/Game73.5568.6107%
Receiving TD/Season6.55.7114%
107%
Santonio Holmes (NYJ) Career Last 2 Seasons Prime %
Games/Season1414.696%
Receptions/Season65.656.3117%
Rec Yards/Season997872.5114%
Receiving Yards/Game70.659.5119%
Receiving TD/Season5.55.796%
108%
Anquan Boldin (BAL) Career Last 2 Seasons Prime %
Games/Season1313.894%
Receptions/Season86.578.6110%
Rec Yards/Season10311027100%
Receiving Yards/Game77.474105%
Receiving TD/Season7.56125%
107%
Roddy White (ATL) Career Last 2 Seasons Prime %
Games/Season1613123
Receptions/Season8575.71112%
Rec Yards/Season12921053.1123%
Receiving Yards/Game80.7565.8123%
Receiving TD/Season6.56.42101%
116%
Reggie Wayne (IND) Career Last 2 Seasons Prime %
Games/Season1615.7102%
Receptions/Season9378.3119%
Rec Yards/Season1157.31064109%
Receiving Yards/Game72.3567.7107%
Receiving TD/Season56.6375%
102%
Steve Smith (CAR) Career Last 2 Seasons Prime %
Games/Season1513.6110%
Receptions/Season62.568.991%
Rec Yards/Season9741012.496%
Receiving Yards/Game63.3568.193%
Receiving TD/Season4.55.976%
93%
Wes Welker (NE) Career Last 2 Seasons Prime %
Games/Season15.515.4101%
Receptions/Season104110.894%
Rec Yards/Season1208.5122199%
Receiving Yards/Game77.379.4297%
Receiving TD/Season86.2129%
104%
What we find here is that with the exception of Carolina's Steve Smith, all of these receivers were playing their best football prior to signing their latest contract. Welker, Holmes, Boldin, Marshall and Wayne show slight increases, proving consistency over their careers, while Jackson and White show major jumps prior to their deals. What we've determined here is that Welker belongs in value discussions with the majority of these receivers. We'll carry the 104% prime for Welker through to our results.

Now let's compare the actual prime statistics (two years prior to signings) with Welker's last two seasons to show where Welker falls in this list.
Receptions Last 2 Seasons Welker % Difference
Marshall 93.5 104 10%
Wayne 93 104 11%
Boldin 86.5 104 17%
White 85 104 18%
Jackson 74 104 29%
Holmes 65.6 104 37%
Smith 62.5 104 40%
Average Difference 23%

Yards Last 2 Seasons Welker % Difference
Jackson 1354 1208.5 -12%
White 1292 1208.5 -7%
Wayne 1157 1208.5 4%
Marshall 1067 1208.5 12%
Boldin 1031 1208.5 15%
Holmes 997 1208.5 18%
Smith 974 1208.5 19%
Average Difference 7%

Yards/Game Last 2 Seasons Welker % Difference
White 80.75 77.3 -4%
Boldin 77.4 77.3 0%
Marshall 73.55 77.3 5%
Wayne 72.35 77.3 6%
Holmes 70.6 77.3 9%
Smith 63.35 77.3 18%
Jackson 59.35 77.3 23%
Average Difference 8%

Touchdowns Last 2 Seasons Welker % Difference
Boldin 7.5 8 6%
Marshall 6.5 8 19%
White 6.5 8 19%
Jackson 6 8 25%
Holmes 5.5 8 31%
Wayne 5 8 38%
Smith 4.5 8 44%
Average Difference 26%
A quick summation shows that Welker has produced 16% better statistically over the two years leading up to his contract than the variable receivers. Again, this is a number we'll carry through to our results.
Results
Length of the Contract
At age 31, durability is certainly a question. But Welker has average 15.4 games per season over his career, and that's enough to offer him the contract length he deserves. Our averages bring us to a 4.57 year contract, but our evaluation of players over 30, and gut instincts say 4 years is the bar here.

Value of the Contract
The name of the game with elite contracts today is the guaranteed money. While years and overall value are viable negotiating points, the struggle seems to be how much to front load, and how much to guarantee - especially with positional players in high-risk of injury like Welker. Our linear regression provides us a $8.82 million average salary. With a 20% upgrade based on prime and statistical performance (Welker's main receiving statistics are higher than our variable receivers in all cases), the salary increased to $10.59 million per year.
Spotrac's Prediction: 4 years, $42,371,930

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