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Was Wes Welker’s Contract Dispute Avoidable?

Wes Welker

On Wes Welker, let me be clear that regardless of his size, leaping ability or big play capability, I think I am in agreement with all Patriots fans – that I want this guy on the team. I also think the Patriots should come up with an offer that works for the Patriots. They have cap money to spend and they can probably structure a deal that works for both sides after the draft.

But, I also cannot stand the revisionist history coming from the Anti-Patriots media cartel. When the Patriots acquired, Welker they signed him to a five-year deal for about $12.5 million. The deal was worth it for his past production but he has since definitely outperformed the contract. I heard Michael Felger say that the Patriots should have done this deal years ago. Now Felger, like a “birther” or a ”truther,” is a “cap denier.” He is a self-admitted conspiracy nut ranging from the NFL Salary Cap to solar flares from the Sun.

Welker’s Previous Contract: Year-By-Year

Welker was signed prior to the 2007 season. He was immense in that season with 112 catches, 1,175 yards and 8 TD’s. The Patriots had him on the books for four more years. He was two years removed from 67 catches and 1 TD with Miami. If you’re the Patriots, do you renegotiate after this season? Of course not.

In 2008, the Brady injury year, 111 catches, 1,165 yards and 3 TD’s. Now, the Patriots still have him on the books at low money with 3 years to go. If you’re the Pats, do you re-negotiate? Well, the answer is probably yes, if you knew how the CBA would turn out and if you knew that Pierre Garcon was going to get dramatically overpaid in 2012. This was the year for Wes to look out for Wes, like Darrelle Revis did with the Jets, and like Richard Seymour did with the Patriots.

Welker did the admirable thing but probably not the best thing for his financial future – he came into camp with the same contract. In 2009, in 14 games, he went nuts, hauling in 123 catches for 1,348 yards and 4 TD’s. He then blows his knee out in the last game of the season. If Welker doesn’t do that, the equation all changes. A contract fight was coming but, with the ACL he lost his leverage. The wise thing for the Patriots would have been to offer a Moss deal, but in their defense they were facing an uncapped year, a receiver with a torn ACL, and a CBA situation. That’s not how they do business.

Welker worked his butt off, changed agents, and had a good season in 2010, with 86 catches, 848 yards and 7 TD’s. He struggled against the Jets in the playoff game after getting benched for commenting on Rex Ryan’s foot fetish. Welker could have held out again, but with the CBA and no offseason, he gambled on having one more good season and then getting rewarded. And he did just that this year (maybe his best) with 122 receptions, 1,569 yards and 9 TD’s. He’s been as productive as any receiver in the NFL and he and Tom Brady are the best passing/receiving combination in sports. Yes, the two may forever be remembered for “the drop,” but it doesn’t take away the production.

So Michael Felger, when was the opportune time for a deal? The FACT, not opinion, was after 2008 for Welker or after 2009 for the Patriots. But, you don’t want to talk about the ACL, because you don’t want your facts to get in the way of your opinion. Felger keeps throwing out the Moss contract, the Moss contract. Well, MIKE, what if Wes doesn’t want the Moss contract? You don’t know what he wants but you continue to chatter away. Also, Felger always like to paint the Patriots as the only “mean” team in the league. There were a record number of franchise tags thrown out at all positions. (Dwayne Bowe, Brent Grimes, Cliff Avril, Drew Brees, Michael Griffin etc.) The players should have fought against the tag, they didn’t and now the media is here to complain about it for them?

Patriots Leverage

So, the Patriots have all the leverage. They have Welker and two franchise tags to play with. The receiver market went crazy in the offseason so yes, from a money perspective, Welker is losing millions. It should teach him a lesson in this league. The owners have more leverage than any other sport, so you have to make as much money when you can while you still can. Welker let poor representation and sentimentality get in the way of business. Don’t blame the Patriots for playing within the rules – they signed a couple slot guys knowing they can bridge the gap until he came back.

At 31, is Welker going to sit out 10 games ala Logan Mankins and then maybe get franchised again? Is he going to spend all next season thinking about that pass in the Super Bowl while Brady is hitting Anthony Gonzalez and Aaron Hernandez? Very doubtful. The answer is this, the Patriots and Welker are a match, so they have to find the common ground – both sides are going to have to give a little on this one.

That being said, the Patriots might have already made the decision that Welker’s money in 2014 and 2015 is going to Gronkowski and Hernandez. And for that, you can’t fault them either. Such is life in the NFL: the Felgers of the world want to make it about laundry, when it suits them. Remember when Felger chastised the Patriots about Brady’s contract, talking about how they were going to hold him to the fire like the Bruins did with Ray Bourque? Didn’t happen. Meanwhile, the Colts cut Peyton Manning, the Saints never signed Drew Brees, the Jets created a quarterback controversy and a lot of bad teams threw money at some mediocre talent.

Sorry, let’s tune it back to more Daniel Bard is a jerk talk.

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