INDIANAPOLIS — At the beginning of the 2013 offseason, the Denver Broncos made a big splash by dipping into the New England Patriots' pool to sign slot receiver Wes Welker.
The Broncos signed Welker as a complementary piece to an offense that was already loaded with talent. This year, however, Welker could be thrust into a more prominent role with the Broncos' No. 2 wide receiver, Eric Decker, set to hit free agency.
Welker could be their No. 2 receiver, but head coach John Fox doesn't seem too concerned with that possibility.
"I always tell guys, don't let anybody define you, that includes me. Wes, I think, has proven to be a very productive receiver in this league, whether that's as a (No.) 1, 2 or 3, I've never really totally understood that — I understand the phrases, but we just let 'em compete, and he's never been short on that."
Welker played 84.4 percent of his snaps in the slot in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus, where Decker played just 32.2 percent of his snaps in that role. That doesn't necessarily mean Welker will play more on the outside this year; the Broncos could also turn to tight end Julius Thomas to play more on the outside rather than in the slot or as a true tight end, which would allow Welker to remain in his more comfortable position.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft pointed out at last year's owner's meeting that there was no guarantee that Welker would make it to the second year of his deal — he is scheduled to count for $8 million against the salary cap in 2014, according to Spotrac, but with only $2 million in dead money, the Broncos could cut him with no significant penalty, and earn back $6 million in cap space in the process.
As of right now, however, that doesn't appear to be anywhere near Fox's mind.
"Wes Welker's under contract," he said, "so I don't think it's a tremendous decision."
Welker was one of four Broncos' pass-catchers to haul in 10 touchdown passes, but he finished the season with 73 catches for 778 yards, the lowest totals for him in those categories since 2006. He missed three games due to concussions in 2013, and finished the season wearing an oversized helmet to help protect his head from further damage.
The Broncos will have a decision to make on Welker after next season, but for now, it appears their decision has been made.
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