BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots just did not want Wes Welker in New England anymore.
They — and it’s hard to know if it was just Bill Belichick making the decision — didn’t care about the record-setting production, didn’t care about his effectiveness with Tom Brady and didn’t care that he’d done so much and worked so hard for the New England franchise. They just weren’t interested in keeping Welker around.
Really, there’s no other conclusion one can reach upon learning that Welker’s deal with Denver is worth just $12 million over two seasons.
Considering the Patriots paid Welker $9.5 million just for last season, and considering they spent $6 million on Chad Ochocinco the year before, Welker’s move from New England had nothing to do with the receiver cashing in or leaving out of spite toward Belichick or the Patriots. Welker went to Denver because it was his only option. The Patriots no longer wanted him.
According to NFL Network’s Albert Breer, the Patriots’ best offer was for $10 million over two years, with incentives.
Think about that: The most reliable, dependable and productive receiver on the team, the man who holds the franchise record for receptions and ranks second all-time in receiving yards is not even worth the same as a washed-up Ochocinco.
Had Welker gone shopping around the league and found a three-year deal for $27 million with $20 million guaranteed, you wouldn’t be able to blame the Patriots for opting not to match. He is a soon-to-be-32-year-old who’s absorbed more damaging hits than any human being ever should, and despite the fact that he’s looked to be bionic and unbreakable over the years, that type of beating is bound to catch up with him at some point. Dedicating $20 million or so of guaranteed money to a player like that is a risky investment, and it would have made sense for the Patriots to not want to make it.
But $12 million over two years? That’s not exactly the type of contract that ruins a team’s salary cap. It’s actually, considering the production, quite a bargain.
But the Patriots didn’t want it, and they didn’t want Welker. That’s all this comes down to.
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily make them wrong. They still have dozens of their own moves to make, and they still have Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez — three weapons any team would kill to have on their roster. They established a two-headed running attack last year with Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, a facet of the offense that will no doubt play a more prominent role going forward and should help prolong Brady’s career. They’re still the best team in their division and have room in free agency and the draft to improve. The removal of Welker won’t suddenly turn the Patriots into a fringe playoff team.
But what the Patriots’ decision does is open the team — and Belichick — up for heavy and harsh criticisms. Each and every time Welker catches a pass from Peyton Manning, people will take notice. If Welker puts together another phenomenal season — say, 110 receptions for even 1,300 yards and six touchdowns — or two, the Patriots will look terrible, and Belichick will (rightly) get crushed for the decision to offer Welker just $10 million over two years.
It’s impossible, on this day, to state with confidence whether or not the Patriots made a mistake. The only thing that’s clear is that the team simply didn’t want him anymore.