I know I haven’t posted in awhile (too many distractions to list) but I couldn’t let Wes Welker’s signing with the Broncos go by without comment. I despise the Patriots but even I have to sympathize with their fans because by not matching the relatively frugal 2 year, $12 million offer sheet from the Broncos, the Patriots have essentially decided that Welker was simply an easily expendable product of Belichick’s “system”. Instead, management went out and signed Rams WR Danny Amendola for – get this – 5 years, $31 million (with $10 million guaranteed). The Patriots have a history of being unsentimental when it comes to cutting popular veteran players but Welker is still in his prime. I’m sure this is not what Brady had in mind when he signed a contract worth much less than his market value in order to free up cap space.
Let’s look at this a bit more closely. Welker’s numbers are absolutely astounding as he’s averaged (!) 112 catches over his 6 seasons with the Patriots. Despite a slow start last season, he still led the team with 118 catches for 1,354 yards and 6 TDs. Part of the reason for this of course is that the Patriots have had their fair share of injury problems offensively with both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez missing several games. Here’s where the Patriots really undervalued Welker: he’s a workhorse who has been able to stay healthy and produce big numbers consistently. Amendola has good stats but he has also missed large chunks of playing time, including almost the entire 2011 season, due to injury. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching years of NFL games, oft-injured players do not magically heal once they change teams.
Clearly, production wasn’t the reason the Patriots let him walk so basically we’ve come down to this: Welker and Belichick can’t stand each other. While the media had fun with Welker’s comment that it was nice to stick it in Belichick’s face after a big game early last season (one outlet actually wondered if Belichick would cut him out of spite), the feud has largely been swept under the rug because of the Patriot’s regular season dominance. I’ve seen enough of Welker to know that his personality is a bit out there so there’s no doubt he’s been storing all the slights, including of course the Patriots’ reluctance to re-sign him, in the back of his mind. Belichick, for his part, can’t stand when players speak out of turn as he’s all about the “team mentality” and spent most of last season freezing Welker out like a petulant child.
In the end though, Welker gets the last laugh as he signs with the Patriots’ nemesis, Peyton Manning, who is totally laughing right now. The Broncos receiving corps is downright loaded as Welker joins Demaryius Thomas and Erik Decker to complement their strong defense (leaving aside last season’s playoff game against the Ravens). While some critics point out, somewhat justifiably, that Welker’s success is mostly due to Brady, Manning is not exactly a downgrade at QB! Plus, Welker has all the motivation he needs to have another outstanding season.
I can’t wait to see how this all plays out – how many more days until training camp again?