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:
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:
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.