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New England Patriots Will Replace Deion Branch With Greg Salas; Is Wes Welker Next?

In acquiring Greg Salas the New England Patriots are, at least directly, replacing veteran wide receivers Deion Branch and Jabar Gaffney. But the St. Louis Rams' former receiver's most interesting role on the Patriots is as their apparent Wes Welker-in-waiting. His most awkward role, too: While Welker hopes for a new contract and avoids eye contact with Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, Salas will hope for an expanded role out of the slot that made Wes Welker Wes Welker (and not Danny Amendola) and avoid eye contact with, uh, Wes Welker.

All this is a lot to digest, I'm sure, for a guy who couldn't pass Brandon Gibson on a depth chart two weeks ago, and who wasn't able to push the poor man's Wes Welker out of his job in St. Louis. But—like Mike Shanahan and running backs 10 years ago—things are different when you're a wide receiver Josh McDaniels is kind of into. It's that, as much as anything Greg Salas showed in college or with the Rams a year ago, that will keep him in the NFL while he tries to Wally Pipp Wes Welker.