Mutual agreement is necessary to accomplish many of life’s most mundane yet important tasks. If you walk to work in an urban setting, consider the simple concept of the crosswalk. You, the humble pedestrian, agree to walk when the friendly walking man lights up, while the drivers agree to wait until they see a green light.
There’s a pact, similar to our pact with the pigeons.
In theory, there’s a pact with employment contracts too, but in the NFL it’s much different. It’s forced, with one side usually using its leverage to gain a distinct advantage.
When he agreed to sign his tender last week, Patriots receiver Wes Welker opened himself up to feel the full power of the Patriot Way. And now with some careful reading of owner Robert Kraft’s comments Tuesday, it seems the inevitable may quickly become a reality.
Sure, they were nice words undoubtedly said with Kraft’s sweet grandpa cadence. But the implication is clear: the Patriot Way remains paramount, and no one man shall be declared superior to the other peon foot soldiers that march beside him.
Kraft spoke to NFL Network’s Kim Jones Tuesday during the league meetings in Atlanta:
“Well we’d like to see him be a Patriot for life but it takes two sides. We’re just happy he’s back in the system. He’s a wonderful young man, and a special guy. I think both sides would like to do a deal, but it requires intelligence and putting our team first.
“Anyone can say whatever they want. He’s done a great job for us, we’re always trying to do whatever we can do to put our team in the best position to win, that means balancing a lot of things, understanding what the cap is, what the cap growth is, how things fit in the system and we try to have values for every position and every player.”
Once you untangle yourself from the friendly negotiation jargon, the key phrases are “putting our team first” and the reference to values for every position and every player.
When he signed his $9.515 million fully guaranteed one-year tender last week, Welker relinquished any leverage he may have had during his quest for a long-term deal to finish his career as a Patriot. And he’s totally fine with that, because his other option was to not play football, and threaten to pull a Logan Mankins on the Patriots management.
That’s not appealing because Welker isn’t the petulant, selfish type, but more importantly with his age (31), his leverage was already minimal. Even though holding out was his only option to retain even an ounce of leverage, it then became even less appealing after the Patriots signed Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Donte Stallworth, and Anthony Gonzalez.
Kraft can look down the Patriots’ sideline and see Chad Ochocinco, who’s inexplicably still employed in New England and is only three years older than Welker. His plummet has been abrupt, and so were the dives experienced by Terrell Owens and Randy Moss in their mid 30s.
Monetary value always trumps loyalty in today’s NFL. Welker is still extremely productive (1,569 yards in 2011), but that cliff awaits.