Did Tom Brady assist Wes Welker?

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is known to throw accurate passes to receiver Wes Welker on the field. But perhaps Brady's biggest assist to Welker came off the field on Monday.

Brady agreed to a three-year, $27 million contract extension with the Patriots that cleared immediate cap room and allowed New England more flexibility to pursue free agents. Brady’s timing is impeccable, because there's no bigger in-house free agent than Welker, who caught 118 passes from Brady for 1,354 yards and six touchdowns last season.

Brady and Welker are close friends who often talk and hang out in the offseason. There is no doubt that, to some degree, Brady had Welker in mind when signing a cap-friendly extension. Brady wants to ensure the Patriots remain title contenders, and that includes keeping his No. 1 target in the fold. Rest assured Brady expects his team to make an even stronger push for Welker before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in March.

Welker played on a one-year franchise tag last season because the Patriots were uneasy about tying up their cap. They no longer have that excuse. Brady’s extension reportedly saves New England $8 million in cap room this year and $7 million in 2014. That sounds like money that could go directly toward keeping Welker.

Entering the offseason, I thought it was a 50-50 chance that New England would work out a contract extension with Welker. But after Monday's assist from Brady, those odds definitely improved.