For many days and many weeks I’ve been writing and thinking that there’s no conceivable way Wes Welker plays for a football team not named the New England Patriots next year. While Bill Belichick is stubborn and he’ll forever guard the Patriot way, that has its limits, right?

No. No it doesn’t.

The assumption made by both myself and others was that although he’s beginning to age at 32, buying a few more seasons of a slot receiver who has tremendous chemistry with Tom Brady and fits perfectly into the Patriots’ system would be a priority for Belichick.

But then that thought begins to fade when we consider how Aaron Hernandez was used last year. He was Welker, essentially, just younger and bigger. Hernandez often lined up in the slot, and early in the year before his injury Julian Edelman took snaps away from Welker too in that same role. Oddly, Welker was both highly effective (1,260 yards on 110 catches) yet still a secondary option at times.

Belichick was perhaps already starting to move on, and now at decision making time in March, the Patriot way is still winning.

Last night we learned that talks were breaking down between Welker and the Patriots, with NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport saying that contract negotiations are over. Now we can escalate this to at least an orange threat level…

Breer also reports that Welker is looking at offers from other teams, though nothing is final. Of course, this could easily be a product of agent spin, the ancient technique of leaking information to the media to boost a player’s value, and create a bidding war.

If Welker leaves, there will be immediate anguish, mostly because saying “Welkah” is just the greatest, and it’s second to only ” Nomahhhhh” in the rich lexicon of Boston athlete drawls. But the Pats can then pursue Danny Amendola and his slot and possession receiver abilities. Sure, he brings a significant injury risk, but there’s more than enough pass catching depth to absorb that worry between Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, and the targets for Brady up the middle would get even deeper if Edelman is retained.