My first question upon seeing the multiple reports that Wes Welker has done what was nearly unthinkable only a few days ago, leaving the Patriots and signing with the Broncos: if $12 million over two years was the offer that won him over, what the hell was the Patriots’ low-ball offer then?
Early this morning NFL Network’s Albert Breer passed along ominous words regarding Welker’s future in New England, essentially saying that the Patriots’ latest offer was embarrassingly low, and he was therefore “seriously considering bolting“.
I’m not much for arithmetic, but the contract Welker has reportedly agreed to will pay him $6 million annually. I get it: he’s aging, and aging players at any position are treated like poison ivy that’s laced with poison oak, and then stuffed in a jar containing the chicken pox virus. But to put Welker’s asking rate in context with the current market, a wide receiver who has 2,943 receiving yards over the past two years with 15 touchdowns (Welker), will be paid nearly the same average yearly sum — and in fact, marginally less — than a receiver who has 2,753 receiving yards in his career (Brian Hartline, who will be paid $6.2 million).
If Welker was pursuing a long-term commitment as he prepares to celebrate his 32nd birthday in early May, then some hesitancy on Bill Belichick’s behalf would be more than understandable. In fact, it would be expected, as the wide receiver cliff is a jagged one, and a 32-year-old Welker may look drastically different than, say, the 36-year-old Welker. But the contract offered by the Broncos and agreed to by Welker minimized risk with both its financial terms, and length.
There wasn’t a substantial commitment to a player beyond his age 35 season, or really even close to it. Welker will be 33 when this contract expires, and after a season in which he averaged 84.6 yards per game with 118 receptions (his fifth 100-catch season), there’s nothing to indicate a fade is coming now. If it begins the following year in the 2014 season, so be it. Then the Broncos will pay that same Hartline value for a player who’s most likely still playing far above a Hartline level at that point.
So the Patriots with their cold calculations and quick, sharp axe truly thought Welker at $6 million annually wasn’t an investment worth making? Tom Brady doesn’t know what the hell is going on either.
Spoke to someone close to Tom Brady. Beyond enraged at contract details that netted Broncos Wes Welker. “Disgrace”"disservice” were used.
— Tom E. Curran (@tomecurran) March 13, 2013
Of course, the explanation you’ll never hear from Billy Belichick is rooted in replacement value, and a soft wide receiver market that deflated values and prices. He’s surely confident that the much younger (27) Danny Amendola can be secured for a similar if not lesser price, and he can then be plugged into the slot. And indeed, New England started negotiating with Amendola during the three-day tampering window over the weekend.
Victor Cruz, a restricted free agent tendered by the Giants, is an option too if the Pats are prepared to give up a first-round pick. There’s also the increasing presence of tight end Aaron Hernandez, who lined up much more often in the slot this past season. Finally, Julian Edelman — also a free agent — could be re-signed after starting to take snaps away from Welker in September before his injury.
Such is the Patriot way. Loyalties are little more than an annoyance, and recognizing a poor investment when a player is descending from the peak of his value has long been Belichick’s favorite mind trick. Great, whatever Bill. You can laugh and cackle while not moving a single face muscle next December if your team is still playoff bound, and we’ll all eat delicious crow.
But right now, this is downright baffling.