Will Manning-Welker Connection Surpass the Brilliance of Brady-Welker?

BJ KisselContributor IJuly 2, 2013

May 30, 2013; Englewood, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) and wide receiver Wes Welker (83) talk during organized team activities at the Broncos training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sport
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest free agent signings of the 2013 NFL offseason has been former New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker joining Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

Welker leaves one future Hall of Fame quarterback in Tom Brady for another in Manning.

Regardless of how you feel about the move, playing with those two quarterbacks can't be a bad thing for a receiver.

The big question is whether or not Welker will produce at the same level with Manning in Denver that he did with Brady in New England. The good news for Broncos fans is that Welker won't have to provide that same kind of production and it could still be considered a great move by the Broncos. 

The Broncos are in a "win now" mode with Manning. What that means, basically, is giving a 36-year old quarterback $58 million guaranteed. The Broncos went "all-in" with Manning, so what's adding another two-year $12 million deal for Welker?

Denver is adding a legitimate slot receiver during the same window it is playing in with Manning.  

The great news for the Broncos is that Welker doesn't have to be the leading receiver or even the second-leading receiver for this move to still look great at the end of the season. He doesn't have to provide that kind of production in order for Manning and this offense to put points on the board.

Manning already has two legitimate wide receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Thomas finished the 2012 season with 94 receptions for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns. Decker picked up 85 receptions for 1,064 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Even better: Thomas is just 25 years old and Decker is 26. These guys are just entering their prime, and they have one of the most productive receivers in the NFL over the last few years joining them in Welker.

Welker averaged over 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns over the past two seasons in New England, but he doesn't need to produce at that level for the Broncos. 

Look at the Broncos' statistics from last season, particularly the "targets" and "receptions" from their wide receivers. It's a fair bet to think Welker should easily replace the production they received from former slot receiver Brandon Stokely. He caught 45 passes for 544 yards and five touchdowns last season in Denver. 

Granted, most of us think Welker is going to produce somewhere between what he did in New England over the past two seasons and what Stokely gave Denver last season. That's not a bold prediction. 

But how many passes could Welker legitimately catch next season without taking away some of the production from Decker or Thomas? 

Manning already had the seventh-most attempts of any quarterback in the NFL last season. 

While the brilliance of the Brady-to-Welker connection will be compared throughout this season to Manning-to-Welker, the Broncos' success will ultimately depend on something else.

The Patriots never won a Super Bowl with Welker. Neither Manning nor Welker, nor even Brady for that matter, can do anything else from an individual standpoint that will add anything more to their illustrious careers this season.

The only thing that can add to their legacies at this point are Super Bowl championships.