Whew, let’s rest for a second here. Since real physical exercise is against blogger law, typing many words without frequent caffination is often the greatest form of exhaustion, and we’ve had a busy little morning around these parts filled with reports which are refuted by rumors, and then pulled back all together. Good times.

So let’s quickly catch up on another important matter, but in less than a week we’ll likely look back and see that it’s importance was a little overblown.

Despite reports yesterday that Wes Welker is nearing a long-term deal with the Patriots, further reports earlier this morning indicted that he won’t sign a contract before free agency begins next Tuesday, and he’ll test the market.

That was first pushed by Adam Schefter, with the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe adding that no contract is imminent between Welker and the only team he’s ever known during his time as a relevant NFL wide receiver. What this likely means then is that although the two sides may indeed be close, there’s still enough of a gap for Welker to at least explore the market, and gauge his value. He’s seeking somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million annually.

The instinct for Patriots fans here is to break things in anger and then walk off in the distance to the Hulk theme song. Sad fans are sad.

Relax. Welker is simply exercising his right as a free agent, and seeing if there’s an opportunity to make more cash in a profession where there’s plenty of it to be had, but much of it isn’t guaranteed. Could he leave? Sure, that’s always been a possibility. But it’s still only a small one, as anyone and everyone who covers the Patriots maintains that a deal is much closer this March than it was last March.

Free agency is always a process, and exploring the market has always been a part of that process, as it’s a players’ only source of leverage. Conversely, once the market opens the Patriots can use other players as leverage if they become impatient, and dangle money at, say, Brian Hartline or Danny Amendola, two younger Welker-types who are available.