Welker adds another dimension to Broncos

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Wes Welker was one of the NFL's best receivers while with the Patriots.

For the second straight season, the Denver Broncos have signed one of – if not the – biggest free agents.

Last year it was Peyton Manning. This year it’s Wes Welker, who put up historic numbers in six seasons with the New England Patriots

In the three seasons before he being traded to the Patriots, Welker totaled 96 receptions in three seasons.

In six seasons with the Patriots averaged 112 receptions a season. His 672 receptions are the most in NFL history over a six-year span, and he owns the NFL record for 100-reception seasons with five.

Welker is one of four players (along with Drew Brees, Larry Fitzgerald and Joe Thomas) who was named to the Pro Bowl each of the last five seasons.

Over the last four seasons, Tom Brady completed 72.7 percent of his passes to Welker. Among QB-WR combinations with at least 200 targets, only Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson are better over that span (73 percent).

Lining Up in Slot- 2012 Season

Welker does bring the best skills of any slot receiver in the NFL.

He led the league in receptions, receiving yards and receiving first downs out of the slot last season. He had more of each when lined up in the slot than all Broncos wide receivers combined.

Manning completed 71.7 percent of his passes to slot receivers last year, best among all quarterbacks who targeted slot receivers at least 50 times.

Welker’s average target depth over the past four seasons was just 6.7 yards – the second lowest among wide receivers behind only Danny Amendola (who, coincidentally went to the same school as Welker, Texas Tech).

Since the start of 2008, 85 percent of Wes Welker’s receptions have been within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. No other wide receiver has had a higher rate of receptions within 10 yards during that time.

Still, Welker moved the chains to the tune of 389 receptions resulting in first downs -- only two players since 2007 have more receptions that resulted in first downs: Reggie Wayne (403) and Roddy White (390).

The one hitch in Welker's game is that he's not as sure-handed as he used to be. In 2008 and 2009, Welker caught passes at a rate of 33 for every one he dropped. From 2010 to 2012, he had 326 catches and 26 drops, a rate of 12.5 catches for every drop.

Even though Welker is going to the Broncos, he will still play one game next season at Foxboro – the Broncos will play at the Patriots in 2013.