Welker, an unrestricted free agent, was allowed to negotiate with other teams last weekend per NFL rules. It's hard to imagine multiple clubs not showing interest in a receiver who had 118 receptions last season. If the Patriots cannot reach an agreement with Welker by midnight, he can sign with any team.
New England must be ready to move on in the event Welker walks. Here are some potential insurance policies for the Patriots:
Previous teams: Patriots
How he fits: Edelman knows the system well and was considered the heir apparent to Welker. New England attempted to phase Edelman in at Welker's expense last season, but injuries eventually sidelined Edelman. The Patriots like Edelman, but he is also a free agent who could garner interest. New England doesn't want to get into a major bidding war to keep its backup when the same thing is already taking place with Welker.
Previous team: St. Louis Rams
How he fits: Amendola is one of the underrated free agents in this year's class. He is a very good slot receiver, but he's also an injury risk. Amendola is the closest thing the Patriots could get to Welker, and at a cheaper rate. The biggest difference is Welker's durability. Amendola may be worth the risk if the Patriots lose Welker.
Previous team: Cleveland Browns
How he fits: Cribbs is not a prototypical receiver, but he is tough, has good size and is dangerous on special teams. New England can always make use of versatile players. Cribbs caught a career-high 41 passes in 2011 but dropped off significantly with just seven receptions for Cleveland in 2012. The Patriots reportedly have interest in Cribbs, who at the very least can boost New England's return game.