Loss Of Welker Hard To Swallow, But Patriots Will Move On

Let’s be clear about this: The loss of Wes Welker, especially to the Broncos, is very hard to take.

Welker is everything you’d want in a football player, talented, hardworking, well-liked, dependable, historically productive and he stays on the field.

Anyone who trashes or attempts to degrade Welker on his way out of town is out of their mind. Welker deserves to be appreciated for all that he did here, and recognized by both the fans and team down the line.

To lose all that he brings is a huge blow. There’s no doubt about that. But spare me the phrases “slap in the face,” “lowballed,” “insulted” and so forth. Welker took what he thought was the best offer for him, and it was 2-years, $12 million. Is it really insulting and lowballing when the offer he takes is “only” a million dollars more per year? Or, another way, $10 millions with incentives to push further is “lowball,” $12 million is “reasonable.” OK.

As for the money in the contracts, I’ll let BSMW member Boda weigh in:

It baffles me how obtuse the media are when it comes to anything financial. Let’s first establish a factual point: from a team’s perspective, an NFL contract that pays $6 million per year for five years with $10 million guaranteed is FAR preferable to a contract that pays $6 million per year for two years with $10 million guaranteed. From the player’s perspective, the exact opposite is true.

Every NFL player would prefer Wes’ deal to Amendola’s deal. Every NFL team would prefer Amendola’s deal to Wes’ deal for a particular player.

What’s debatable is how each player will perform over the next 2-5 years

Clearly the decision had been made to move on from Welker unless they got him at the price they wanted, and they likely knew he wasn’t going to take the price they wanted. If you’re going to use terms to describe this decision, I’m OK with “cold” and “calculating” and even “ruthless.”

Mike Reiss has a good look at how the negotiations went down:

How Wes Welker, Patriots parted

I’ve heard and read from media members all over the country this week, even while the Baltimore Ravens lose half their team (after signing their QB to the biggest contract ever) that Ozzie Newsome has a plan. “Ozzie ALWAYS has a plan.” (Do a search on that phrase on Twitter.)

I believe Ozzie Newsome does have a plan. He’s a damn good GM with a great track record, including the current Super Bowl champions. I have faith that he knows what he’s doing.

But Bill Belichick and the Patriots make the decision to move on from Wes Welker, and it becomes a personality flaw. Belichick’s arrogant. His ego is leading the team. He thinks he’s smarter than everyone else. In addition, if you even suggest that perhaps Belichick knows what he’s doing, and point their record of success since 2001, you get the sarcastic “In Bill We Trust” usually accompanied by an eyeroll. Or there is the “Belichick toadies” comment, or reminders of Belichick’s infallibility and miscues, of which he’s had plenty, but I’d wager less than most executives around the league.

I just know that since 2001, the exact same people have been saying annually that Belichick’s arrogance is going to come back to bite him.

The Patriots have a record of letting guys go before they start their sharp decline. I fully expect Wes Welker to have a terrific year in Denver, and I’ll even enjoy watching catch passes from Peyton Manning – except of course when the Broncos are playing the Patriots. He’ll be great this year. I have no doubt. But next year? Who knows?

Like death and taxes, you know you can count on Ron Borges to lend his fair and balanced opinion to the matter. Ron brings up the following names to bolster his case that the Patriots cheap out on players:

Ty Law, Asante Samuel, Willie McGinest, Ty Warren, David Givens, David Patten, Damien Woody, Adam Vinatieri and BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

OK. So where were they so glaringly wrong there? Vinatieri maybe? He’s a kicker. Asante Samuel played OK, but was he worth the contract he got from the Eagles? Woody had a couple OK years. Green-Ellis was replaced by the more talented Stevan Ridley.

They traded Richard Seymour before he hit free agency. You can argue that he would’ve helped the 2009 Patriots, but that team, in retrospect was in full rebuild-on-the-fly mode. They cut Lawyer Milloy and won back-to-back Super Bowls. They traded Randy Moss and got better.

Generally, these types of decisions have later proven to be correct. I’d say the one move the backfired the most was trading Deion Branch.

The bigger point here is the Patriots offense. Since Welker came on board in 2007, the offense has revolved around him. He’s the guy Tom Brady has looked to the most. By far. The offense has been Welker-centric. It’s been phenomenally successful during the regular season. The postseason, less so. Let’s be clear about this, too, it’s not Welker’s fault.

In their last five playoff losses – Giants, Ravens, Jets, Giants Ravens, they’ve been beaten by the same kind of team and defense. Tough, physical, were able to wall off the underneath and middle of the field, and force Brady into quick decisions with pressure.

Welker has performed well in those games. He missed the wildcard game against the Ravens after the 2009 season (more on that later) but in the other four games he had 11/103, 7/57, 7/60, 8/117. With the exception of last season’s Super Bowl loss to the Giants, Welker has had the most receptions of any Patriot in each game, and in that one Aaron Hernandez had one more catch than Welker.

The problem was not Welker, but in order to take the next step, they needed to change. They recognized it, experimenting early in the season with being less reliant on Welker. They struggled, and went back to Welker when Hernandez and Julian Edelman got hurt, and the results were familiar.

Greg A Bedard explains why they need to make a change, and does so far better than I could:

Welker move is about evolving the offense

People like Borges and Michael Silver are focused in the wrong areas. They’re all about the players while this is about the team, and the offense.

Now we come to Danny Amendola, and he is in a tough spot. Right now most people are scoffing at the idea that he is going to “replace” Welker, and I saw people making the suggestion that this is Belichick’s arrogance, thinking he can just plug another guy in and get the same production.

I’ll say it now, Amendola will not give you same production you got from Wes Welker. And that’s a good thing. (Read Bedard’s post, please.)

He’s here to fill Welker’s position, but not his production. He’s similar but different. I see these polls about “Who will catch more passes next year, Welker or Amendola?” It’s easy, Welker will.

You hear over and over about Amendola missing 20 games the last two seasons. This is cited as evidence that he is injury-prone, and not as tough as Welker.

Amendola dislocated his elbow on the opening day of the 2011 season, and the next month reinjured it and tore his triceps in practice, which landed him on IR.

Timing is the unfortunate thing here. Welker is lauded as durable, which is certainly is, but he also suffered a season-ending injury, but his just happened to take place during the final game of the regular season, when he tore his ACL. Had he injured it on opening day, and Amendola injured his in week 17 what would the discussion be like? The only game Welker missed was the playoff loss to the Ravens. To his credit, he was back for the opening game of the following season.

Last season, Amendola dislocated his clavicle, but in a way that almost killed him.  He was back in four weeks. I think he’s tough enough. Whether he can avoid these types of freak injuries remains to be seen. Between he, Hernandez, Gronkowski and (if he returns) Edelman, you’ve got four guys with a recent history of difficulty staying on the field. Health is going to be critical.

Wes Welker is going to be missed in New England. It might take Tom Brady awhile to get over not having his favorite outlet. But in the end, the offense (and the team) might be better for it. That’s The Belichick Way.

  • 02062

    Well put. As always.

  • sjc6224

    Good analysis. Seems clear to me that the Pats were going to change their offense going into this season and the fact that the Broncos offer wasn’t that much more than theirs clearly shows they made the decision not to keep him. The response is dreary and predictable and I am sure we will have lots of “Brady body language” analysis when the Pats lose their first game next year (or even when they win).

    Interesting names Borges brings up. Some did little after leaving New England but when did the Patriots become the only team in the NFL to lose free agents? All of those guys were paid fair market value or above when they were in New England just like Seymour, Wilfork, Moss, Brady, Light, Mankins, Gronkowski, Harrison, Hernandez, Bruschi, etc are/were.

  • http://www.bostonsportsmediawatch.com/ bsmfan

    Great op-ed.

    Greg Bedard, again, seems to be the voice of reason in town. tl;dr: Pats should have said thanks but we’re moving in another direction, not dragging it out. Your link to his post above explains why. For another reasoned approach, Kerry had a great read on CHFF about this: http://bit.ly/Wg0nGT

    My favorite stat was something that’s not been discussed a lot but I think will yield some more light:

    SEVEN – 101 players have caught more than 95 passes in a
    season. Only three of them played for championship teams: Jerry Rice (1994 49ers); Michael Irvin (1995 Cowboys); Troy Brown (2001 Patriots).

    Salient is #7: Yup, no team that’s ultra dependent on one guy ever has won. I think there is a reason that this has prevailed for a decade, even in the face of prolific offenses.
    ————————
    How soon after this did ESPN/NBC put in calls to Goodell about the DEN@NE matchup being on their network?
    ————————
    Bedard did some interview rounds today. Roughly the same but different questions on WEEI (http://bit.ly/WfZLBb) and DPShow (http://bit.ly/WfZw9l). Bedard’s WEEI interview started with Gerry asking him if he would like to make any “free agency” news of his own. Gerry mentioned SI but also said NFLN made an offer to him? He shied away from the question, politely declining. Have to assume that what Bruce reported is coming to fruition soon. However, when he appeared on DP Show, I know he’s been on before but it was almost chummy in that “We’re going to be future co-workers”. I’m taking a shot in the dark here but can I assume that part of his SI duties will include NBC work like Peter King does?

    He will be missed, though.

    • http://www.facebook.com/michael.sutherland.90410 Michael Sutherland

      Too great dependence on Welker and Moss was one of the main reasons the Patriots lost to the Giants in 2008. They paid for not having cultivated their other options more during the season.

  • latetodinner

    Bruce:

    Great take…and I agree with most of your points….however…I think that Welker leaving was all about the money. However it was not about the money offered this year. It was about the contract negotiation last year that resulted in the Pats being forced to franchise him. There were reports last year that the Pats offered 2 years for $16 mill all guaranteed. Welker turned it down looking for Outside receiver money…purportedly $10 mill a year. The Pats were between a rock and a hard place and ended up franchising him for $9.5 mill for one year…more than they wanted to spend. I think Welker’s rejection of the 2 year $16 mill offer was the final straw. The Pats had offered 3 and 4 year deals in the $6-7 mill per annum range and he had rejected them as well. At the beginning of last year the Pats were looking to phase Welker out of the offense…making it revolve around the TE’s and RB’s more.Retribution some say, BB might argue it was more planning for the future. Unfortunately both Hernandez and Edelman got hurt and once they put Welker back on the field Brady, went back to that well over and over again, probably not pleasing Bill Belichick.

    When this offseason came around the Pats had Amendola in their back pocket. Welker and his people knew it. The Pats made a fair market offer of 2 at $10mill and Welker went out and got 2 at $12 mill. The Pats did not bother to match because they were still smarting from giving him $9.5 mill last year. Usually when these pissing contests happen it is either because a player has lost a step or is asking for the moon. In this case I believe the Pats were intent on moving on and getting Welker as far away from Belichick as possible, as soon as he forced them to franchise him last year. His comments about signing the tender being his good will probably went up BB touchas sideways. The Pats thought they did Welker a favor by giving him the $9.5 mill guaranteed.

    I think if you got BB good and drunk and on sodium pentathol he would tell you that Welker was not nearly the team player that his slick PR presented. As such moving on from him to the younger Amendola was not so hard. To back up his point…had Welker wanted to be in NE…he could have taken 2 for $10 mill.

    • http://www.bostonsportsmediawatch.com/ bsmfan

      HOW DARE YOU DRINK THE WATER COMING FROM FOXBORO AND BE A PATRIOTS MEDIA TOADIE!

      DOWNVOTE!!!! – Felger

      • latetodinner

        BSMFan…god forbid be allowed to actually consider the teams perspective in all of this. Especially when carrying the player’s water is so easy.

        • http://www.bostonsportsmediawatch.com/ bsmfan

          Look, all of this assumes that Bedard is right. I’m not here to Canonize him, but DaveR said it best on the previous post about how the media coverage is going to go unless they’re 8-0 with +100 PD.

          Want another take by guys that put money from a living? The Welker trade moved Denver from +800 to +600 where the Patriots sit. Each are the best two odds, next to SF @ +650 and SEA @ +850.

          I did love how Mazz claimed @tomecurran’s report of the deal being done Tuesday but them not submitting it on the “wire” being “false”.

          How soon before Felger or Mazz claim that Bedard is really Ernie Adams?

        • Joshua Pakstis

          I was thinking of this as well. F&M has been killing the Pats for not raising their last offer to Welker by $1M/year or the fact that there was only a $1M difference between them last year and that the Pats could have easily bridged the gap.

          What no one talks about is the fact that Welker only has one concern, himself. The Pats have about a billion, from current teammates and their next contract demands to potential FAs, to other potential acquisitions.

          The cap has historically gone up about 6-11% a year since it was instituted, but under the new CBA, it has gone up and will go up, about 2% TOTAL for this year and next. Therefore $1M in cap space means so much more than it used to.

        • latetodinner

          Joshua… you make an astute observation. When listening to the talking heads you need to remember they are all employees. Therefore they never see things through management’s eyes. If you are any type of an entrepreneur then you can understand management’s perspective and can see that the player always has the choice to make things work if he is willing to take an offer. One of the few if only things Eddie Andleman had going for him when he was on the air…assuming you could wade through all the ahs, ahems, Chinese food talk and general slothness was a business owner/entrepreneur’s perspective that allowed him to be critical of players looking for the last dollar. That type of voice is absent from Boston Sports Talk right now. The closest one left was Ordway as he had been a program director. But he is gone also.

    • mike

      Another controversial call that is ego driven. Long off season though, if they spend $18 million a year on 3 defensive studs Im ok with it. Woodson, Reed and bring Talib back. There you go!!-MM

  • GStill45

    I appreciate this analysis. Everyone just keeps screaming “downgrade!” but I think a case can be made for going to Amendola, but almost no one is bothering to make it. If Amendola does more than simply play the slot, it means the offense is evolving. He’s rolling the dice here, but that might not be a bad thing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/michael.sutherland.90410 Michael Sutherland

      If nothing else, the Patriots do give up Welker’s and Brady’s familiarity with each other, which in a close game can be important (you could make that case for the 2006 AFC Championship in Indy). But their offense will still be really good.

  • http://twitter.com/theaisleseatcom Andre Dursin

    Bedard and Curran — and Gresh, incredibly — seem to have a grasp of what’s going on. You can debate the move and we’ll all do so next season as it plays out, but I’m fascinated to see where the offense goes from here.

    Yesterday Mazz started screaming “WHAT’S WRONG WITH THEIR OFFENSE?!?!?” on the air — did he forget the fact they were SHUT OUT at home, in the 2nd half of the AFC Championship game? With Welker out there as the #1 target? While that’s not Welker’s fault, it’s clear something had to be done. Brady has put up huge numbers in regular season games and struggled in recent post-season tilts when taking on tougher competition.

    I think Bedard’s column, as you said Bruce, is absolutely on target. This is another “evolution” we’re seeing now offensively, and I think they have to take the chance in order to get to that next level and win another Super Bowl

    • http://www.facebook.com/michael.sutherland.90410 Michael Sutherland

      The best offense in history got shut down in Arizona in January, 2008. It happens, particularly in the playoffs. The Rams in 2000–greatest show on turf–barely survived Tampa Bay and Tennessee. The game gets more physical and old-school in the playoffs. If the Patriots can’t adapt to that kind of game, by improving their defense, then they won’t win. Their offense will still be very good without Wes Welker.

  • http://twitter.com/theaisleseatcom Andre Dursin

    Every flaw with Felger and Mazz exposed today. Now calling Curran a liar. Apparently anything raining on their day to trash the Patriots will not stand in the way.

  • http://twitter.com/DryHeave1 DryHeave

    Call me a Belichick “rumpswab”. call me a Belichick “toadie” I don’t care, but in my heart of hearts, I really believe that when the dust clears, Belichick will ONCE AGAIN be proven to be correct, while the, “usual suspects” will ONCE AGAIN be proven to be nothing but a bunch of gum flapping morons.

  • dan

    Felger and Maz are totally right about Belichick. Belichick has always been a prick but it took Tom Brady winning him 3 super bowls so he could still have a job as a head coach.

    • Scott@PD

      yeah, you guys would know a lot about being pricks.

  • dan

    Wes Welker gone but hey they signed leon washington today! make your super bowl reservations now!

  • Jack C

    If Welker was 28 would they be looking to “evolve” the offense?

  • Joshua Pakstis

    I’m going to hate the fact that the media at large will try to portray Amendola as Welker’s “replacement” and show him to suffer by the comparison.

    I just hope that Amendola himself is cut some slack; I remember when Harrison was signed before the ’03 season and then they cut Milloy. I was on a Patriots email list at the time and there was a (failed) movement to boo Harrison when he would be announced at the first home game of the season. I think that signing worked out.

    It also drives me nuts that this is portrayed as Belichick’s “arrogance” which is, in many ways, giving Belichick too much credit, like he’s some Wizard of Oz/puppetmaster. Felger and Massarotti come to the “inevitable conclusion” that the reason why Welker isn’t here is because either Belichick doesn’t like him or that they were too arrogant to raise their offer.
    There are too many moving pieces, too many people involved, and too much going on, to state that Belichick and the Pats can “orchestrate” things.

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