Size no issue for Welker

Posted Nov. 23, 2009, at 9:58 p.m.

Aren’t you glad the Miami Dolphins decided to trade wide receiver Wes Welker to the New England Patriots in 2007 for second- and seventh-round draft picks?

The Dolphins must have thought he was too small. Or he simply didn’t fit into their offense.

The Oklahoma City native and former Texas Tech star is 5-foot-9, 185 pounds.

Or that is his listed size in the Patriots media guide (wink, wink).

Sometimes, those sizes are, shall we say, exaggerated.

All he did in Sunday’s 31-14 win over the New York Jets is snare a career-high 15 passes for 192 yards.

He leads the NFL in receptions with 79 good for 854 yards.

And he missed two games with a knee injury!

He is also averaging 13 yards per punt return.

Since joining the Patriots at the outset of the 2007 season, he has caught 302 passes for 3,194 yards and 15 touchdowns in 40 games. He leads NFL receivers in catches during that span.

He epitomizes the saying, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Wide receiver may seem like a glamorous position, but it’s not.

Linebackers and defensive backs can’t wait to line up a wide receiver for a big hit.

Those pass routes across the middle are dangerous.

As soon as you catch the ball, somebody is waiting to unload on you.

But Welker is absolutely fearless. That reckless abandon combines with his speed, quick feet, sure hands and precise routes to elevate him into one of the league’s elite receivers.

He’s fun to watch.

There could be a future Welker in the making in 6-0, 198-pound rookie and former Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman. He has been transformed into a wide receiver and has 26 catches for 228 yards, including an important catch and run for a vital first down in the fourth quarter of the Jets game.

Having Randy Moss as a teammate opens up real estate for Welker as well as Edelman and they’ve capitalized.

— Larry Mahoney

Add power, defense plus trade Papelbon

Not that Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein checks with me for ideas on ways to improve the team, or even reads this column for that matter, but with the hot stove season barely simmering, here’s an offseason to-do list for the Olde Towne Team:

1(A). Re-sign Jason Bay. The guy has more than proven himself in terms of hitting ability, defensive acumen, mental makeup, and ability to handle being under the Red Sox Nation microscope. He shouldn’t get Teixeira money, but he’s done enough the last two years to prove he’s worth the money. He’s 31 and although he doesn’t hit for as high an average as Matt Holliday, he has more power and has already proven he’s a perfect fit with this team.

1(B). Trade for San Diego slugger Adrian Gonzalez. The two-time Gold Glove first baseman would immediately upgrade both the infield and the lineup and with his swing, he could easily go from 30 home runs in pitcher-friendly PETCO Park to 50 in Fenway. He still has two years to go before free agency and would cost a lot, but he’d be worth it and would thrive in a market that actually cares about all 162 games.

2. Either re-sign Alex Gonzalez or sign Orlando Cabrera to be the starting shortstop. Stop trying to find a four- or five-tool player who can hit at least 20 home runs and play the most crucial defensive position on the field. Err on the side of defense with any offense thrown in considered frosting on the cake.

3. Trade Jonathan Papelbon for the best offer out there — and there will be many — as long as it’s not less than his relative worth, and re-sign Billy Wagner. Recoup some of the young talent and/or blue chip prospects you’ll have to part with to get Adrian Gonzalez and remain one of the most talent-rich minor league systems in the majors. The Sox should be just fine with Daniel Bard and Wagner in the pen.

There you have it: A four-point offseason checklist which, if implemented, will make the Red Sox one of the favorites, if not the favorite, in the American League next season.

— Andrew Neff

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