Welker leaves Patriots, agrees with Broncos

The Denver Broncos have made a major splash in free agency, agreeing to terms with wide receiver Wes Welker on a two-year contract.

Welker’s deal is worth $12 million, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reports.

Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway tweeted the club’s agreement with the former New England Patriot.

“Excited to have Wes join the Broncos. His production & toughness will be a great asset!” Elway wrote.

The Patriots had been negotiating with Welker leading up to free agency but the sides could not find common ground on a deal. The 31-year-old Welker played under the franchise tag and a $9.5 million salary for the 2012 season and finished with a team-high 118 catches and 1,354 yards to go with six touchdowns.

The team elected not to tag him this offseason. If they had, Welker would have received an escalated salary of $11.4 million for the 2013 season.

Welker has been a fan favorite in New England ever since he arrived via trade in 2007. His 672 receptions over six seasons (an average of 112 per season) since joining the Patriots are the most in the NFL over that span. He became the first player in NFL history with five 110-catch seasons.

Among Welker’s biggest supporters is quarterback Tom Brady, who helped the Patriots clear $15 million in cap space over the next two seasons by restructuring his deal and signing an extension.

Brady was willing to accept the deal, which was considered below market value, because of the trust that exists between the two-time Super Bowl MVP and the team. Brady felt that in giving New England this cap flexibility, a source told ESPNBoston.com, he trusted the Patriots would add the right players to finish his career with the best chance to win another championship. Now, it’s unclear whether Welker will be catching passes from Brady or from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

Just two days ago, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he hoped Welker would be “a Patriot for life, just like Tom Brady.”

Welker had a team-high eight catches for 117 yards in New England’s 28-13 AFC Championship Game loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Information from ESPNBoston.com’s Field Yates was used in this report.

About Neil Farris

I have been covering sports since 2002 when I began writing for my college newspaper. Since then I have covered football regionally and currently work in the NFL department at All Sports Talk.