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Can Wes Welker, New England Patriots reach new deal?

If you're already doing the math on how your favorite team can fit wide receiver Wes Welker under the salary cap, pump the brakes.

Welker still might be in the plans of the New England Patriots.'s Ian Rapoport wrote Monday that both he and's Albert Breer have heard Welker could receive a long-term contract extension before free agency.

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This makes sense. Welker, 31, puts up big numbers every year, is a good presence in the locker room and possesses a skill-set that should allow him to play at a high level through his mid-30s.

We tend to overlook just how incredibly productive Welker has been since joining the Patriots in 2007. In that stretch -- which includes an offseason recovery from a blown ACL in 2010 -- Welker has averaged 112 catches per season. He's a first-down machine.

Rapoport examined the market and speculated Welker might be in line for a five-year deal at roughly $8 million per season. Are the Patriots willing to make one more investment on the game's greatest slot receiver? Don't rule it out.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.

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